This is the story of Tommi, a young Scottish woman living an ordinary life, who stumbles violently into her birthright as the world’s most powerful werewolf. The sudden appearance of a dark, mysterious (and very attractive) guardian further confuses her as her powers begin to develop and she begins to understand that her life can never be the same again. The reader will be swept up in Tommi’s journey as she’s thrown into the middle of a centuries-old battle and a world peopled with expert warriors and vicious enemies – this is the start of a series – and a world – you will fall in love with.
Published by Hachette Australia.
An eARC of this book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This review is presented as part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016.
Who’s Afraid is the debut urban fantasy novel from Australian journalist and author Maria Lewis.
The first thing that has to be noted about this book is the cover. The book itself is clearly urban fantasy (for where urban fantasy involves paranormal creatures like vampires and werewolves existing in the modern world) but there’s no randomly sexualised woman on the cover. Instead, we see the protagonist Tommi from the back, blue hair on display, in a pose that screams power and defiance. Well done, Hachette, bravo to the cover artist for a truly gorgeous cover.
Who’s Afraid is a fast-paced, easy read. The settings are well grounded, be they in Scotland or New Zealand, and Lewis has a deft hand for the dialogue and idioms used by the characters in each setting. There’s a lot to love about Tommi – she’s no cringing violet, and is is shown as having a well-rounded life, with a job she enjoys (and is good at) and a good circle of friends, both male and female. Tommi doesn’t need saving (she will save herself, and thank you very much, and do you need saving as well?) and she is comfortable in her own body and in control of her own sexuality.
It does need to be noted that there is a sexual assault in this book, which may be a no go for some readers.
There are some debut novel issues with this book. Some of the pacing feels off, with some events happening far too quickly, and it feels like too much explanation about the world and its paranormal denizens is handed to Tommi, where it could have felt more natural if it were discovered by her more slowly. Tommi herself doesn’t always seem to react to some of the events happening – I’d expect someone to be reacting more than she does to the discovery that she’s a werewolf, for example. Many of the characters don’t feel as developed as I’d like them to be, also. Tommi is wonderfully developed, which makes some of the others, such as Lorcan, her mentor, feel thinner in contrast.
I also had some issues with the antagonist of the book, who isn’t developed much beyond his role as “bad guy who does bad things and therefore needs to be defeated by Tommi”. This ties into some of the pacing issues with the book; it feels almost as though this part of the story would have been better served with it being threaded through more than one book.
There’s also an issue which may put off some readers, in that all of the “bad” guys are Maori (and we don’t get to see any Maori who aren’t the bad guys). Tommi herself is half Maori, but identifies as Scottish several times in the book, which does little to lessen this. Again, I feel like this is something that ties into pacing issues and possibly the need to keep the book to a particular length, and I don’t feel that this was something that was done deliberately by Lewis, but it bears noting in case it is something that some readers want to avoid.
Despite these issues, I feel like Who’s Afraid is a promising debut novel, and would recommend it to fans of fast-paced fun urban fantasy. I’ll be looking out for the sequel when it is released.