Title: Black Beast (Shadow Thane #1)
Author: Nenia Campbell
Publisher: Nenia Campbell
Release Date: 2nd April 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 284 (paperback)
Source: Author (giveaway)
Nenia is a friend of mine, but as you can see that hasn’t stopped me from being any less annoyingly opinionated on this book, the first of hers I have read. You should pity her. Also, I won it in a giveaway, so you can’t even claim she should expect me to be nice or anything, even though I have been looking forward to reading this ever since I saw the blurb.
Black Beast is framed by the point of view of a young up-and-coming hunter witch named Finn, because he’s obsessed with the new prey he’s locked on to: Catherine Pierce, a teen Shifter who hasn’t settled yet, which is out of the ordinary in the Otherworld. Although most of the POV is from Catherine, occasionally Finn’s creepy POV is added in as well, besides the framing, which sometimes works and sometimes does not, seeing as how Catherine is really the protagonist. Also, Finn’s POV just serves to be creepy. Did I mention he’s a creep?
Catherine is determined to live life under the radar, but it doesn’t help that everyone at school think she’s a freaky outcast, and the Otherkin – witches, vampires, Slayers and other Shifters – all hate her as well. Even amongst Shifters she’s a freak. Catherine works part time in a second hand book shop, and takes home a mysterious dark-magic book one of the customers was interested in (we never find out why – just one of the many, many questions left unanswered in this book), then she’s attacked by the Witch hunter, and shenanigans ensue when she decides she’s incapable of dissecting a cricket because of her Shifting ability, so she enacts a daring break-and-enter-and-destruction-of-school-property to free said crickets.
The plot is a bit of a mess, and the climax of breaking into the school to rescue the crickets was decidedly anti-climactic. I was hoping for a second showdown of Catherine vs Finn where Catherine kicked his ass all the way back to Creepytown, but I was disappointed. There was almost no point in having Finn in the book, as we spent most of our time in Catherine’s head as she moped around not doing very interesting things, having weird dreams and occasionally shifting.
However, the shifting moments were pretty cool. I loved being inside Catherine’s head when she shifted into an animal. The worldbuilding was intense and awesome, with so many factions bristling on the edge of war with one another, a whole history of previous conflicts, and although I was confused about whether regular humans knew about the Otherkin for a while, I eventually figured it out. I loved how the world was so complex and I can see this series continuing indefinitely because of that.
The book plays a very deliberate homage to Twilight, pairing Catherine up with a potential love interest in biology class, and several other sneaky references. It also offers refreshing changes to your typical paranormal novel in that Catherine’s mother is not absent, but involved in her children’s lives and she’s tough and she makes rules she expects her kids to abide by. She’s pretty cool.
I thought Catherine was going to face more intense or difficult trials and hurdles than she did in this book. Instead she spent it fending off people (whether it was a guy with a crush or someone out for her blood), being snarky, and, quite reasonably being a normal teenage girl struggling to follow the rules. Even the Shadow Thane mentioned in the blurb didn’t really feature, and the community group subplot went nowhere.
I prefer my books to gather up their threads at the end and provide answers. Even if one or two overarching issues were left undisclosed and ready to create conflict in the second book – I fully expect Finn to be back in the next book – there were way too many plot threads unravelling and too many unanswered questions to really complete the story. An extra twenty thousand words wrapping up those threads and giving an actual climax involving a certain Shifter/Witch showdown wouldn’t go amiss. I couldn’t help but be disappointed, but at least reading this book has shown me that Nenia’s writing is not for me.