Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson
In the world of shapeshifter stories (and urban fantasy, in general), it’s pretty common for the female protagonist to be a rarity among her kind. This trope pretty much guarantees that the main character will have endless material for romantic subplots (and romantic angst) and a deep well of built-in turmoil.
So when I saw Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson had gone all the way to the extreme of the spectrum, I was curious. Werewolf Jessica McClain isn’t just rare – she’s the only female werewolf ever. This odd fact comes with a lot of baggage.
On the one hand, the werewolves think she’s the lupine version of the Antichrist. On the other hand, hiding the fact that she’s a werewolf from her kind and from regular humans is getting harder and harder. A disgruntled cop is stalking Jessica, trying to catch her doing something illegal so he can put her away for a couple dozen years, and Jessica’s wolf instincts keep waking up and telling her to eat people she doesn’t like. Oh, and she’s also a private detective to pay the bills.
Since this is a one-canary review, I’m gonna talk about the good first. The action in Full Blooded is pretty great. The very first chapter launches us into the world of werewolves as Jessica wakes up and realizes she’s making her first shift ever. She’s changing, and being female and 26, she probably won’t survive. And what if she shifts wrong? What if –
Fast-paced and exciting, when things are in crisis, the book flies. When someone is out to get Jessica, things get moving.
And it’s an enormous “But.”
When the story isn’t in crisis, everything stops. Characters sit around a table and summarize what’s happening for the reader in stiff, undistinguished dialogue sequences. Things that should be deduced from the story are talked to death and the characters have no problem speaking about their emotions and plans in perfectly formed and eloquent paragraphs that would make a relationship counselor dance with glee.
Because of the heavy reliance on pausing the narrative to talk the story out through contrived dialogue sequences, we’re told most of what we know about the world, Jessica’s personality, Jessica’s feelings, and her relationship with other characters. Unfortunately, the actual events of the story don’t always work with the stuff we’re told. We’re never shown how Mary-Sue-Jessica with her glowing purple eyes is able to solve her own problems – in fact, she’s rescued, or her wolf saves her, or she’s told what to do throughout the entirety of the book. Though we’re told the father and family is overbearing and protective, all of his decisions and actions say the opposite.
Basic story contradictions also abound: Why is the daughter of the most powerful Alpha of the world clueless about the most basic werewolf facts? Why are the villains shooting themselves in the foot by accelerating their master plan? How the hell does a random, anonymous poem stuck in your family’s mailbox when you’re born convince all werewolves ever that you’re the anti-christ? And anyway, why doesn’t Jessica ever try to track down this guy who ruined her life with a couple lines of bad poetry?
Flat dialogue and unexplained motivations meant I got no real connection to the characters, too much info-dumping meant I didn’t get pulled into the world Carlson was building, and a scattered plot focus meant I wasn’t on the edge of my seat.
This is a novel for a loyal fan or a strong skimmer. Otherwise, just read the first and last chapter, make up the middle, and you’ll be set.
Copy of book generously provided by Netgalley and Hatchette Book Group.
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