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.
- You can learn more about my novella about a skinwalker at: http://davidleesummers.com/Breaking-the-Code.html
- You can learn more about my Scarlet Order vampire novels at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order