Review: Once Bitten by Kalayna Price ★★★

Once Bitten by Kalayna Price
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Novels of Haven #1
Publication Date: January 9, 2009
ISBN: 978-0980245394
Page Count: 272

Kita Nekai, on the run and the smallest of her shifter clan - a calico cat among lions and tigers - is being hunted. She was expected to accept her role as her father's successor whether or not her cat was up to the task of leading the clan. She disagreed.

Now she's less than a step ahead of the hunters, bone-tired, cold, and living hand-to-mouth in the city of Haven. And that's the high point of her day. She's also drugged, "accidentally" turned into a vampire, and sentenced to death for recklessly creating a rogue shifter who tortures its human prey.

She's got seventy-two hours to find the rogue, evade a city full of hunters, prove she's not responsible for the rogue, and keep the vampire council from killing her. All while sorting out an apprentice mage, a married ex-boyfriend shifter-hunter, and the vampire who made her.


REVIEW

This was a pretty good start to an urban fantasy series. I admit to being slightly put off by the covers; they're not the greatest, especially when compared to those of Kalayna's other series, The Alex Craft series. But you know what they say about judging books by their covers..

I just wanted to highlight a couple of things about the series that I found quite unique. Firstly, the history of Kita's shapeshifter race. They are not from this (the human) world. They each have an animal spirit and they are split into clans by type, i.e. canids (including the wolves, jackals, hyenas, coyotes, foxes, and domestic dogs.) and felines (cats, lions, leopards, and cheetahs etc.) but there's no saying what type of animal you will become. Kita, for example, is a domestic calico cat.

Like so:


Her teeny tiny stature compared to that of some of the lion shifters in her clan is the reason she feels she is unsuitable for her role as the next leader of the Nekai clan once her father passes, and why she has been in the human world hiding/running away for the last five years at the beginning of the book.

Now I liked this aspect but it wasn't explained nearly enough. There was very little exposition given on the different worlds, different clans and different branches of supernaturals (of which there are shifters, vamps and mages so far), so although I'm picking it out as a highlight, I feel it was poorly explained. However, I've now read book two and know that book three takes us to the other world as its primary setting so we will get a much better insight then, but that doesn't help us during the reading of this book.

Another highlight is the non-typical male characters. There are two, one a vamp, one a fellow shifter. It's not a love triangle but it is very interesting because the shifter, Bobby, (a bob cat *snort*) has been her friend since childhood. They are/were extremely close and wanted to turn it into more by becoming mated/married, but her father wouldn't allow it. Bobby has since mated/married someone else back home, either during or just before her departure. I'm sure this also played a part in Kita's decision to stay away. It made for some very uncomfortable scenes between them upon their reunion in this book.

The other male character is a vamp as I mentioned and I really liked how he wasn't your typical suave, sophisticated, power-hungry master vampire. In fact he's been leading such a solitary life before Kita came along that the rest of the vamps call him "The Hermit". He has no interest in the games and power plays of the vampire court, even though he is powerful, so no matter how much they try to persuade him to join the council so they can utilise his skills, he refuses. I liked both him and the developing sexual tension between him and Kita very much. :)

My main problems, and the reason it's only getting a 3 star rating, is the lack of world-building mentioned above, and the lack of emotional connection from Kita. I liked Kita a lot as a main character, however, I don't feel she expressed enough feeling throughout. She goes through some major, MAJOR life changes in the first couple of chapters of the book and yet she displays almost no reaction, asks no questions, nothing. In the end someone has to say to her words to the effect of "So, do you want to know what happened to you, or what?" I mean, it's not like I want her to be moaning and whingeing throughout and being all woe is me, but after what happened I would gladly have forgiven her for flipping out, temporarily at least. I know I would have.

Another shame was the lack of characterization of Gil, the scholar mage who ends up tagging along. She sounds so quirky in her pink clothes and Wellington boots, but sadly she fell a little flat.

At the time of writing this I have already read book two and can happily confirm the emotional connection is not a problem in the next instalment, the tension and drama is amped up significantly and the developing relationship with a certain character is very compelling making it well worth the read. I would urge UF fans to take a chance on this series, and with book three coming out in a month's time, now would be as good a time as any!

3 Stars! ★★★

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