Dell, contemporary fantasy, January 2007
Connections to: book one of the Riley Jenson Guardian series
I picked up this series thanks to the recs of friends in Romancelandia. I was relieved to see "fantasy" stamped on the spine when I just checked for the publication details, because a romance it ain’t. And I’m warning all fellow Romancelandians in advance: do not expect this book/series to be a romance, because it’s NOT. If you can’t handle lots of violence and casual sex with multiple partners, these books will not be for you. But if you like dark urban fantasy, definitely give them a shot.
Not that there’s anything wrong with not being a romance. As a contemporary fantasy Full Moon Rising is a ripping good yarn. Sure, we’re seeing a glut of vampires and werewolves and vamp-were hybrids on the book circuit these days, but Ms. Arthur has still managed to give us something different: her setting is Melbourne, Australia, and that alone was different enough to interest me. Ms. Arthur also manages to convey the details of her heroine’s world without too much exposition; through subtle comments, readers learn that the supernatural is an accepted fact in the human world, that wolf packs are apparently divided by coat color and physical traits, that some vamps take undead literally and don't shower, and that phones have video capability – the latter of which is just pretty cool stuff.
The stories are told from the point of view of heroine Riley Jenson. She and her twin brother Rhoan are hybrids – their red wolf clan mother was assaulted by a newly risen vampire. Though mostly wolf in characteristics and physiology, both Riley and her brother possess some vampire skills as well – they can sense vamps nearby, can "cloak" their movements, and Riley also exhibits some mild telepathy. Both work for the Directorate – the supernatural authorities. Rhoan is a Guardian, a supernatural cop/executioner/spy, and Riley is an administrative assistant. Her vampire boss, Jack, keeps trying to get her to join the Guardians, but she doesn’t want that kind of life. But when Rhoan disappears while on assignment, she doesn’t have much choice – she’ll do anything to find her twin.
Though this is billed as the main plot on the back blurb, Rhoan is actually rescued fairly early in the game. The main part of the plot actually centers on an illegal cloning and cross-breeding operation that the Directorate is trying to bust wide open. As a female were, Riley is a prime target for the group’s fertility experiments, and later, when key figures realize she’s not purebred, for their genetic experiments. Basically, every time she turns around, Riley’s getting assaulted, kidnapped, drugged, and what-have-you.
Another important aspect of the plot is Riley’s sex life. Were culture according to Ms. Arthur is explained very well: weres of both sexes are influenced by the moon phases, and both go into heat the week of the full moon, up until the moon forces their change. During heat, they not only just want sex, they absolutely need it to function, and it doesn't matter whether they know their partner or not, unless they find their soulmate and swear their love to the moon. It’s a celebration, and not something to be ashamed of – sexual shame is a human value with almost no place in were society. At the opening of the book, Riley has two regular mates she uses for the moon heat, Talon and Misha, and she meets up with them a lot in Full Moon Rising. Then she meets Quinn, a vampire version of J.D. Robb’s Roarke, when he shows up naked on her doorstep, looking for Rhoan. And despite his being a vampire, despite the fact that she’s not sure she can trust him, despite the fact that he views weres as promiscuous whores, despite the fact that she already has two mates, she wants him too.
To be perfectly honest, while I loved the unabashed sexuality of these books, the sex didn’t do much for me. When Riley was with Misha, the sex seemed mechanical. When she was with Talon, most of the time she was drugged and/or under the influence of the moon heat, so I left those scenes feeling dirty and creeped out. The only good scenes were with Quinn – and they were very, very good. But yes, there is actually such a thing as too much sex in a book. Who’d have thought?! I’m actually kind of hoping that in one of the next books, we get to meet Riley when she’s not in moon heat – maybe then she’ll do more than shag and get abducted.
But despite the fact that I got tired of the sex and I thought Riley constantly being drugged and/or abducted got pretty old, something about this book just grabbed me and didn’t let go. Ms. Arthur’s world-building is complex and well thought out, her characters, while not terribly sympathetic, are extremely readable. If future books build on this base and don’t become a one-note wonder (*ahem*StephaniePlum*ahem*), then I will definitely become a devoted fan.
Review © 2007 by Riley Merrick