Cloud Watcher by Lilith Saintcrow
Imajinn Books: October 2006 (Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy)*
I jumped into this series in the fourth book, but that caused no trouble in my understanding of the world and what came before. It was pretty clear that each of the pairs of supporting characters (pairs, because they are already paired up) had been the protagonists in the earlier works.
I enjoy a heroine alone, on the run from the villains, who over the course of the novel, finds friends, builds a community, and learns to depend on and work with others. This novel opens with Anya running away from demons. Unaware of what she is, what powers she possesses (and that she is only one of many – a witch, instead of unique, a freak), she runs from city to city, and when necessary, persuades others to provide her with the necessities. Her companion is a boy in a man’s body, who depends on her protection. When Anya and her companion come to their latest refuge, they encounter the city’s three guardians – fellow witches who protect the city from demons. Each witch is one half of the pairs of destined mates.
One of the male working with the witches is as yet un-paired, and obviously the hero of the story. The romantic tension was strong and interesting until it became a settled issue. After that, the tension was reduced to a repeated refrain of “I’ll never leave you” and “are you going to stay” and “I’m not leaving you” and “you should go.” A disappointment, it lessened the interest of the romantic story arc. The romance depends on the urban fantasy trope of destined mates. Destined mates who each inhabit one side of the light vs. dark dichotomy. Obviously (you guessed it, right?) the females are the “light” and the males are the “dark.” And while the men protect the women, the women “save” the males from their darkness.
Sometimes this overdone trope bothers me – it does remove choice, from both parties. Sometimes, I let go of the underlying (and legitimate) issues and simply enjoy the attraction, the play of resistance against uncertainty, and the inevitable happy ending.
Other times, I start out enjoying it and it goes sour. Ultimately, my interest seems to depend on how believable the attraction is, and the level of destiny’s involvement. When one party is destined to save the other, and one or both parties die when the other dies, the trope becomes more difficult to enjoy. Coercion is not a quality of a healthy relationship, and destiny can be a convenient excuse.
This book prompted both feelings – enjoyment, and wariness.
In the end, this book was entertaining, but not captivating.
*Advance copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Christine Feehan writes very similar destined-mates where the women are the light and the men are the dark, and where the women save the men from their darkness. She writes mostly about vampires, but also about shapeshifters. If these urban fantasy/paranormal romance tropes are ones you enjoy, you should probably enjoy this.
Nalini Singh writes more interesting destined-mates urban fantasy – about shapeshifters in an alternate world where telepaths, shapeshifters, and humans all live uneasily side-by-side. The love stories, romantic tension, world-building, and plots are all excellent.