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Wolf at the Door (The Jan Xu Adventures) (Volume 1) Paperback – May 28, 2013
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The plot is structurally different from most books. Though the time line can be confusing, the dreamlike feel makes it work. I live the seeing and the family conflict and tension is absolutely stellar. Add a non traditional protagonist and surprisingly strong characters, and you have a pretty excellent recipe. It isn't perfect, especially in the way a couple of plot threads fit together, but the writing style is really interesting. Don't miss this one, and don't forget to buy its sequel, too.
This is the first book in the series, and I'll be reading more of the author's work to see how she progresses as a story-teller, as I have high hopes that we'll see her really coming into her own and giving us a fantasy world rich with her own landscape.
I was less entranced by the frequent switches in time. Although some are clearly delineated, others are left vague and I'm not good at guessing which decade we were in. I was also confused by the changes in the relative ages of the characters: the main and her sister are at some points 4 years apart, and at other points only 2. I spent a while trying to figure out if this was a plot clue that I had missed, but never resolved it to my satisfaction.
I do plan on reading the sequels.
An urban fantasy by a Singaporean author who may be known to you by her real name, Joyce Chng. While A Wolf at the Door had some problems, it was one of the few recent urban fantasies which I've even liked enough to finish. (By "urban fantasy" I mean the modern "hot and/or wisecracking person kicks supernatural ass in modern times," not the Emma Bull/Charles de Lint "magic in the city" books.)
Most urban fantasy fails to hold my interest; it feels bland, plasticky, dull. I think part of what makes it feel that way is that the protagonists rarely have any relationships outside of romances or power dynamics with their vampire clan/werewolf pack, the landscapes tend toward generic American cities, and there's nothing going on other than magic spells, politicking among the pack, romance, and fighting: no details of life that make a world feel real.
Damask doesn't follow any of those patterns. Her Singapore feels completely real, and is a character in its own right. The characters have many relationships of different types: familial, pack, friendships. Jan Xu is happily married and has two young daughters/pups, and the best parts of the book involve daily life as a Singaporean werewolf.
Where the book falls down is plot and structure. There are two timelines running in parallel, one in the present and one in the past. They are poorly divided, sometimes marked "past" and sometimes not (and occasionally marked "past" when they're actually in the present). The storyline in the past is underdeveloped, with way too much tell and not enough show. It's also not strongly connected to the present storyline. And the present storyline is awkwardly plotted.
Five stars for atmosphere, three for character and prose (sometimes awkward, sometimes quite good), two for structure. But like I said: this is the only urban fantasy I've read all year that I actually finished. The world and setting are very, very good. Also, it's only $1.99.
Buy it now!