Jane is planning the complicated security measures to prepare for the visit of the European Vampires. She also has to prepare for a fraught and controversial summit between the vampires and witches to end centuries of feuding
There’s a lot of terrible things that can go wrong and a lot of fraught diplomacy to misstep
Which is not a good time for her shapeshifting ability to start acting up – made even more pressing with the plotting of some powerful and extremely cunning witches with an apparent lethal agenda.
Jane seems to be heading to a new chapter in this book with bringing more people into her little family. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet – I like her and Eli and Alex. They have an excellent rapport. They are a family. While the addition of vampire Edmund (and all his unanswered questions) and entourage has the potential to be amusing I just don’t get why he’s there? Healing mojo? Extra unnecessary debate? Somewhat broken character development about Jane (and is it really character development to not want lots of people you barely know moving in with you?)
Jane and Bruiser is a relationship which is certainly better than relationships Jane has had before. And I definitely appreciate that Jane isn’t falling into a relationship with Leo because that would be a whole terrible mess of abusive tropes
Bruiser is often “protective” of Jane, using the excuse of being old fashioned. Compared to many books it’s mild though and he never tries to overrule her, make decisions for her or otherwise disrespect her. Really, if it wasn’t framed as old fashioned protectiveness it could have been much easier passed off with him being legitimately pissed
It’s just the name, Bruiser. It’s like the worst possible nickname for this character
I don’t hate her relationship with Bruiser – but I love her relationships with others: the family she’s built with Eli and Alex (and, yes, I love that this has never been romantic and never will be), the healing relationship with Molly and trying to balance being protective without infantilising those around her. Caring for people without seeing that as a burden or a duty is a nice addition to her story.
And I know it divides the crowd a lot – but I really do like Beast. I actually like the depiction of the inner animal of a shapeshifter that isn’t all about rage and hunger which is so often the case. I like the depiction of the inner beast as something that isn’t so utterly simplistic, that is still not human but still intelligent and driven.
This book does have some considerable diversity
Jane Yellowrock is Native American, Cherokee – and unlike so many Native American protagonists, a lot of work has gone into her history, language, culture and connections. In so many books Jane would be Native American and the whole point of that heritage would be to make her a Skinwalker. And that would be it. There would be nothing else about her: Jane’s history seems much more fleshed out. Her culture and ethnicity are important elements of her character not just a random excuses for giving her magical power. That history still has a powerful effect on her.
Not only that, the way the books treat history, especially with Jane’s extreme longevity, is also surprising (and, yes, that’s depressing that it’s surprising – but a whole lot of Urban Fantasy, especially Urban Fantasy in the southern US do tend to romanticise at best) and stark. The genocide of Native Americans, slavery and its ongoing ramifications are both referenced to in the book.
Her adopted family and two of the closest people to her are Eli and Alex, two Black men – and Black men from very different backgrounds. Most of Leo’s enforcement team led by Derek, his new enforcer, are Black: all soldiers. Eli also has a background as a soldier, but Alex is a hacker, a computer expert and extremely good at what he does. Witches both among the bad guys and the head of the witches of New Orleans are Black women (this is the benefit of having multiple minorities – because you can show an array of characters avoiding a stereotyped presentation by simple breadth). An important character in this book is Ming Zoya, an Asian woman, who I hope will also be more important in future books since Leo has embraced her into his inner circle (along with her sister Ming Zhane).
I also like that, with Molly there, and the preponderance of female witches, despite largely being surrounded by men, Jane has powerful friendships with women. She also respects women – even if she is afraid of Katie; even casual mentions of characters like Bettina (a witch and sex worker) are lacking in snark and spite we so often see.