Published 2009 325 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn't really fit in. And being an assassin - the only profession fit for an outcast - doesn't help matters. But she's never brought her work home. Until now.
Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex, and threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she's on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life-changing, but together, they could be fatal…
Red-Headed Stepchild is the first novel in the Sabina Kane urban fantasy trilogy. It is also the debut novel for author Jaye Wells, who gets her writing career off to a cracking start with this near perfect example of urban fantasy fiction.
Red-Headed Stepchild is set in a world where vampires, mages, demons and faeries exist mostly unnoticed by its largely human population. The vampires in this world are not undead but are living supernatural beings that are born, rather than made. They have a lot of the usual strengths and weaknesses of vampires but their origins, and their genetic red-hair, are linked back to original bible myth (they are the earthly descendents of Lilith and Cain) and as a result they have some original weaknesses involving apples.
Sabina Kane is half vampire and half mage, a forbidden mixture of bloodlines that has made her an outcast her entire life. Orphaned at birth, she was raised as a vampire by her maternal grandmother, who is the leader of the Dominae (the ruling body of the vampires.) During the course of the novel Sabina is forced to re-evaluate the relationship she has with her grandmother and the Dominae - rapidly coming to the conclusion that she has been a useful tool rather than a loved family member. Sent to infiltrate a group of rival supernaturals and assassinate its leader, she has to think on her feet and make some new friends if she wants to avoid her assignment turning into a suicide mission…
Written with a light humorous touch, the plotline rockets along a break-neck speed with a good balance of dialogue and fantasy action to keep readers entertained. My only criticism of Red-Headed Stepchild would have to be that Sabina’s character did seem naive for an assassin. While the plot of the novel is driven by her realisation that she has been lied to and used all her life (a clear argument for her naivety) it seems unlikely that assassin would be a good career choice for someone who wasn’t more politically aware.
Still, this is only a minor gripe and it doesn’t detract from the overall reading experience. Especially since Red-Headed Stepchild ticks so many of the urban fantasy check-boxes: entertaining demon sidekick – check; strong alpha female protagonist – check; multiple sexy supernatural men – check; I could go on but if you like urban fantasy you want to read this book and discover it for yourself.
Red-Headed Stepchild is probably closest in style and content to the works of Kim Harrison and Karen Chance but there is no reason that any fantasy fan shouldn’t enjoy this richly imagined and well written story.
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