I’ve read a lot (A LOT) of the paranormal romances with the vampires, werewolves, fae, etc. (let’s be honest, we all go through phases), and I was reluctant to get back into that phase because after a while you realize every single story is a rehash of the same situations and the EXACT same characters. They’re also usually very dramatic, teen angsty, and sex charged until just trying to get through a series of them is tiring and they all run together in one big blur.
This is why it took me a while to start this series. What really pushed me to read them is that I’ve read all of W.R. Gingell’s fairy tale and fantasy books and she is SUCH a good author that I figured her paranormal books had to be better quality than the ones I have read previously. I am SO GLAD I decided to give this series a chance.
Pet is an orphaned girl who secretly lives in the house where her parents were murdered. She is able to stay hidden for several years before disaster strikes and there is a new murder, right outside her window. When 3 paranormal men move into her house to investigate, Pet is stuck trying to live her life without any of them realizing she’s there. It doesn’t take long until she is sucked into the investigation and becomes an odd pet to the strange trio that have invaded her sanctuary. The real question is, can one human pet survive in the Between and Behind long enough to change the way the humans and the Others interact with each other?
I love the characters. Pet acts a little young for her 17 years, but that can be explained away by her basically raising herself and being generally detached from family and a lot of society. She’s genuinely herself. She doesn’t really sit around and pout, she constantly takes action. Some books of this genre like to ignore obvious questions and suspicions that main characters should have; I love that Pet asks a ton of questions rather than waiting passively for the story to unfold.
The fact that Pet is considered, well, a pet, could easily throw this book into the “Chauvinistic-Man-Vampire-Stockholm-Syndrome-I-Treat-The-Main-Woman-As-An-Object-And-We-All-Pretend-That’s-Sexy,” but the very tone of the book and the characters protects the reader from feeling that and rather pushes the subtle feeling of two worlds that don’t understand each other at all despite being pushed together and a group trying to convince themselves that humans are “lesser” in order to justify who they are and what they do. One of the main draws to this is that you absolutely know by the style of writing that a positive shift in attitude is going to be the big moral point in the books and that it’s not going to be a sex-driven, only-on-the-surface change.
Zero is one of those characters who, because he talks so little, you really have to pay attention to what he does, what small reactions he has, and how others react to him in order to get a good idea of who he might be and where he is coming from. He’s an excellent mystery/hero character who somehow is able to be quiet and forbidding without being the typical broody mess.
Athelas is hilarious. He sits back and is amused by the world, but there are a ton of hints that something deeper is going on inside his head. He likes to watch the rest of the group squirm a little, but it’s hard to tell if he is really as villainous as that implies. Although he talks significantly more than Zero seems too, he’s another one of whom it pays to pay attention to the little non-verbal things.
Jin Yeong is a Korean vampire who refuses to speak English until he feels he can speak it perfectly. He seems to be in a perpetually bad or annoyed mood and is very vain and self-centered, though typically in more of a funny way than in a Heathcliff sort of way. This, combined with the feeling that there are probably deeper darker reasons for why he is the way he is, is why I think many people might root for him to end up as a romantic interest to Pet (which, I have to say, I’m against. Zero all the way!). If you are wondering about romance, I believe it will be there eventually, but it doesn’t drive the story, which is one of the reasons this series is able to be more complex and less stereotypical than others of its genre. While Jin Yeong is not my favorite character, he does drive a lot of my favorite lines and situations because watching Pet actively try to drive him crazy cracks me up. You want to know which vampire myth is true? Apparently the big one is being OCD.
There are a few other characters who will probably be important as the series goes on, but I haven’t developed a strong opinion about them yet.
In general, no one is a big clichéd stereotype. W.R. Gingell is a queen of building individual and interesting personalities without having to give a ton of peripheral details. You get to know them from little expressions and actions rather than long-winded expositions by the author or 5 pages of dramatic inner dialogue. I really, really love Gingell’s characters.
One thing that might annoy some readers is the lack of small physical details given about the protagonist. I know that when I first started reading W.R. Gingell’s books, I would have a hard time with the lack of physical description that often accompanies the heroines. I’m not sure whether it was actually a writing device or not, but Pet isn’t even revealed as a girl until about 30% into the book (Kind of like how the heroine in Rebecca never gets a name). This may be to drive home the lack of typical identity that Pet has. She doesn’t even have a real name that is revealed and, in an effort to distance themselves, her “owners” try to always refer to her as “it.” For those of you who really want some sort of physical description, she is described a little more in the short stories, “All the Different Shades of Blue” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Dropbears” This is because those stories are from different people’s perspectives rather than her own, and they give a pretty clear idea of their impressions of her.
Here is how she’s described:
“Long-legged and thin, she had a kind of faun-like look about her.” She has “clear grey eyes” and her build is constantly referred to in terms of being small: “thin-waiflike frame,” “little-thing.” She is also called “wide-eyed” and “big-eyed,” with a “thin mouth” that is “just a bit crooked.” “She wasn’t pretty; her nose was too big, her mouth was too thin, and her long, dark hair was perpetually untidy.” Apart from those things, the big impressions she seem to make on those that observe her is that, despite being a bit of a sarcastic smart-alack, she has a very nice, hopeful, open, trusting face that is hard to not like.