Stray, by Rachel Vincent
June 20, 2007
Stray is about a werecat grad student named Faythe Sanders. She’d spent the last 5 years trying to lead a regular college life and work towards a future that didn’t include the Pride run by her father.
When a couple of the other rare female werecats go missing, Faythe is called home to her family’s ranch. She resents their insistence that she needs protection, and doesn’t like being reminded about the kind of life her family expects her to return to. She also doesn’t like living in close quarters with Marc, her father’s enforcer and the man she’d been engaged to before college. After a few dramatic episodes at the ranch, Faythe becomes the next tabby in danger and has to take her place in the Pride to capture a dangerous stray werecat.
I liked Vincent’s description of shapechanging and thought the structure of her werecat society was interesting. It seems harsh to those who weren’t cats by birth, which I can see causing a problem for the Prides later. There was casual violence between the werecats, which makes sense to me but could bother some readers. The bad guys in this book were also extremely violent towards the women they targeted, but thankfully we were only shown the aftermath of the worst of this.
I liked most of the characters, but some of the guys who weren’t as key to the story seemed to blend together in my mind. Faythe’s college boyfriend was really flat and practically ignored when he wasn’t being used as a symbol of her rebellion. The relationship arguments with Marc got very repetitive, but that didn’t overwhelm the story for too long other than a slow part in the middle of the book.
Through much of this book, I found Faythe frustrating. She was selfish and insensitive, which caused pain to those around her (both the mental and physical kind). She was also an immature whiner. When I’d read far enough to understand how important she was to her Pride, it got even worse. She seemed to be ignoring her responsibilities and fighting to live the kind of life where she could never really be herself.
Despite my problems with her actions, she remained a likable character. She just comes across as a young woman stubborn enough to carry on angsty teenage rebellion for a few years too long. This is the first book in a series, so I have high hopes that Faythe will eventually straighten up, stop acting like such a jerk, and become a reliable leader. Hopefully she’ll get a larger dose of empathy along the way. In that case, her years apart from the Pride will probably turn out to be an asset, giving her a different perspective.
I thought Stray was too long considering how basic the plot was, and some character and plot elements seem very heavily influenced by the adventures of Kelley Armstrong’s werewolves. But I enjoyed this book and will keep an eye out for future releases by Vincent. I’d recommend it for fans of shapeshifter stories, except for any who are squeamish about violent content.