Thursday, August 14, 2014

Year of the Tiger (Changeling Sisters #2) By Heather Heffner

The war between the weres and the vampires grows in intensity and Citlalli is torn in how to proceed – does she obediently follow the were alpha’s plans, even as he keeps her in the dark? Does she join Rafael on his destructive quest for vengeance- but how many will die following his path? Or does she take a chance and run for her own priority – saving her sisters – even if it means meeting the vampire queen on her own turf?

While Raina continues her precarious existence in the vampire court. She has few – and decreasing – allies and an ever growing amount of enemies. She has forged an alliance with Khyber, the queen’s oldest son, but how sure can she be that she can trust him? But her own awareness of herself and her past may be giving her a whole new weapon to fight with

I don’t know whether it’s because of the gap between reading this book and the last book, but I found some elements of this book lost me. It’s just so huge, we have the supernatural world, the back story of the vampires, the nature of Citlalli’s many divided soul, different shapeshifter groups, magic and spirits and Uma and dark spirits and the Fox and the man’s lantern… it’s rare for me to want a recap but I would have appreciated here  - a recap or more detailed explanation. Or maybe just a slightly slower pace

Because while the first book took a long time to get started, this book felt like we were plunged into the deep end and expected to run. In almost no time we go from reeling and adapting to the last book to throwing ourselves into the action of this one. The war is here, the plot against the vampires is coming to a head. Fights! Drama! High emotion! Conflict! It’s an excellent roller coaster of action and tension which just doesn’t give me much time to catch my breath and get my bearing as we’re pulled along. Just little things like the nature of spirit world, the identity of various ghosts, a reminder of the shapeshifter hierarchy, the nature of Maya’s many forms, Una’s role, maybe even a little time to get used to Raina and Citlalli’s differing POVs since Rain is changing so much.

At the same time there are elements of the plot that are distracted. Citlalli takes some time to spend with the lantern seller and I,m not entirely sure what it achieves (or how she’s able to magically divine his cure after such a brief meeting). We have the fox running around causing chaos that could probably be better served in a series of short stories – though it does serve to remind us that just because the vampires and Maya are the main enemy doesn’t mean they’re the only problem.

I think this rapid pacing, large number of characters and lots of action confuses me a little because the world is so wide and rich. There’s a lot of research, a lot of legends and a lot of work gone into building this world and incorporating so many different elements of mythology that we so rarely see incorporated into Urban Fantasy stories, making it very different from anything I’ve read before

I did like to see some humanising of Citlali’s mother – she’s often the harsh authority figure to be railed against and blamed. It’s nice to see more of her – her strictness covers her concern and genuine love. And her compassion – refusing to let Una live alone when she realises she has no parents. She’s strict, she has rules, but she also has a lot of love and a lot of hard history behind her

Similarly, Yu Li became more humanised. There’s still a lot of harshness to her and a lot of unnecessary and over the top conflict but there’s more motive and reason behind it to. She – and her son – have already lost one man who was vitally important to them, she worries about losing another and another father figure for her son. But also her relationship with Rafael is complex beyond Citlali – Rafael is obsessed about the war while she also wants to live – and for her child to live as well. It brings up a whole interesting side element about just how much the werewolves can be expected to give up and dedicate to this war against the vampires. Yu Li and Citlali do come together at the end with an excellent scene – and if there’s a third book I look forward to them being united and not at odds over a man.

That war and its limits shows itself in other ways, like the brutality of the werewolf’s alpha. Where once the wolves enjoyed considerable freedom and autonomy, they suffered devastating losses because they weren’t unified and people did very unwise things through their own motives. It’s the classic freedom vs security debate that is twisted further by the ongoing conflict with the vampires that demands so much of their time and energy. It subtly raises the question how different all these people would be if they hadn’t been so changed by the war and the need to stay focused on it.

The vast majority of the characters in this book are POC, being set in South Korea with Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Latino characters (Citlali and her family). The vampires and their brides are drawn  from several Not only do we have a large number of POC, but the setting incorporates a huge amount of culture and mythology but also some interesting conflicts – like Citlali’s difficulty in acclimatising to a new country as an immigrant, but also as a child and second generation immigrants in the US with the conflict between their parents over whether to raise them with Mexican culture and knowing how to speak Spanish or whether to push them to greater “assimilation”.  Her parents also have radically different views of Mexico due to very different experiences and very different pressures that pushed them to leave which also feeds well into the brief examination of undocumented migrants seen through Citlali’s memory.

The series continues to lack any LGBT people at all. We do have suggestion from Khyber that he’s so ancient and jaded and above it all that he could bring himself to seduce another man. That’s it and pretty gross at that – I honestly wish books wouldn’t throw in these insulting little asides if they are averse to including actual LGBT people.

A lot happened this book and it completely changed where the story ended up and where we are now – this leaves me extremely interested in what happens next. This world has a lot more stories in it and these characters have a lot further to go!