Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker

I recently finished the first draft of my latest vampire novel Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. In my novel, the vampires have scattered around the world to avoid retribution from destroying a secret military project, only to find themselves pulled back into it whether they want to be or not. Portions of the novel are set in France, Colorado, and New Orleans. After wrapping up my novel, I decided I was in the mood for another vampire novel set in New Orleans. I’d heard about Faith Hunter’s novel Skinwalker before, but hadn’t read it. Since my Scarlet Order world also touches on skinwalker legends, and since I have a novella inspired by skinwalker stories, I thought I would take a look.

The skinwalker of Faith Hunter’s title is a Cherokee woman named Jane Yellowrock who can shapeshift into a mountain lion. What’s more, the mountain lion appears to be its own individual living within Jane’s consciousness. Jane doesn’t know much about her history or where her powers came from, but she has been trained to fight and works as a professional bounty hunter. In New Orleans, a rogue vampire is on the loose killing both humans and other vampires indiscriminately. However, the vampires can’t seem to trap it or catch it. They hire Jane to do the job for them. The novel opens as Jane arrives in New Orleans and meets with her contact, a vampire madame named Katherine Fontaneau. She soon finds her search complicated by the interplay of vampire family politics and police interest in the case. Despite that, Jane begins to gather clues while making allies and enemies among the human and vampire populations of the Crescent City. Fortunately, one of her best friends is a powerful witch who has given her powerful tools to use in the hunt.

Authors who write about vampires have a lot of choices when they establish their rules about these creatures. There are many sources in folklore and fiction writers have just built on that. If there are real vampires, they’ve remained hidden in the shadows and haven’t yet appeared to tell us what we’ve gotten right or wrong in our depictions. Witches can be a little trickier since there are wiccans and a long, dark history of people accused of witchcraft. Faith Hunter clearly builds her own witch lore, where magical power is passed along genetically. In Diné lore, skinwalkers have a strong association with witchcraft. Again, Hunter builds her own skinwalker lore, separate from that of the Diné. Once I understood that Hunter had built her own self-contained lore, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Skinwalker was a solid thrill ride of a novel with lots of action. She gives lush descriptions of the locations around New Orleans that I’ve visited including the French Quarter, Jean Lafitte National Park, and the Garden District. She also gives us several characters we really care about, and it’s not always clear who the good guys and bad guys are. There were a few things in the novel that didn’t quite work for me such as Jane’s almost magical hair that let her store enough weaponry to push my willing suspension of disbelief. That said, I did like the witch-enchanted magical saddlebags on her motorcycle which allow her to store many items.

9 comments on “Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker

  1. That sounds like an intriguing novel. I’ve seen and read some supernatural fantasy or science fiction thrillers featuring native American heroes/women lately. I wonder if it is a new trend.

    • I think supernatural fantasy with women protagonists have been around for a while. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series which started in the 1990s is a good example. That said, I have seen more stories featuring Native American protagonists in the last few years. In particular, I’ve read some great works by Rebecca Roanhorse and Darcie Little Badger, who are themselves Native American.

  2. Pagadan says:

    I love the magic hair and saddlebags.

    • I think if her hair had been intentionally magical, I would have enjoyed it more. As written, she had normal hair, but could stash many weapons in it without losing them. It pushed my willing suspension of disbelief. The saddlebags were definitely great, though.

  3. Pagadan says:

    Yes. Having hair with a mind of its own would have been better. The saddlebags reminded me of The Luggage (Terry Pratchett) and the Tardis.

  4. Pagadan says:

    It sounded so interesting that I bought it. I see she often wore her hair in braids up on her head. Makes me curious to see if she could make room for her weapons amongst the coils somehow. Imaginative story, but a lot of blood and gore. I like Beast and the parts with her point of view, but how exactly did Jane steal her?

    • I think the idea is that yes, she does somehow make room for her weapons among the coils, but it’s still quite a feat with smooth, straight hair, even after its been braided. My wife’s experience is that even hair clips have a way of slipping out of position unless periodically adjusted. Knives and such are much heavier, so unless there’s some enchantment in place, it’s a little hard to imagine braided hair as a reliable hiding spot for more than one or two knives. Also, pulling weapons out without pulling your own hair would be a real challenge!

      I get the feeling we learn more about beast’s history in later books.

  5. Pagadan says:

    Good point about the weight of the weapons!

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