I happened to finish Cate Tiernan's Darkest Fear before I decided to jump on Rebel Belle, so I decided to go ahead and review it. So let's jump right in!
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Title: Darkest Fear
Series: Birthright, Book 1
Author: Cate Tiernan
Publisher: Simon Pulse (7 January 2014)
Synopsis: Vivi’s animal instincts are her legacy—and may be her downfall—in this start to a romantic fantasy series that will appeal to fans of The Nine Lives of Chloe King.
Vivi has known the truth about her family—and herself—since she was thirteen. But that doesn’t mean she’s accepted it. Being Haguari isn’t something she feels she’ll ever accept. How can she feel like anything but a freak knowing that it’s in her genes to turn into a jaguar?
Now eighteen, Vivi’s ready to break away from the traditions of her heritage. But all of that changes with her parents’ shocking, devastating deaths and the mysteries left behind. Vivi discovers family she never even knew she had, and a life open with possibility. New friends, new loyalties, and even romance all lay ahead—but so do dangers unlike anything Vivi ever could have imagined.
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Darkest Fear begins a little boring for me, and reads about as normal as a non-fiction novel. The proverbial Sugar Honey Iced Tea doesn't actually hit the fan until, a few chapters in, when Vivi and her parents are celebrating her eighteenth birthday and are suddenly interrupted by a hauguri, a person who shifts into a jaguar. *interest spikes*
To make a long arc short, Vivi's parents are murdered, and our heroine is left in the Everglades Forest of Sugar Beach having the panic attack of a life time. The cops are called, an investigation is launched, Vivi is taken to the hospital, and it's safe to assume that, in this world where her parents no longer exist, she hasn't the faintest idea which way is up anymore.
Vivi is steeped in regret -- for she, too, is hauguri. But she'd fought her parents so hard; she didn't want to be hauguri. She wanted to be normal -- and this is where her Tia Juliana (her aunt on her mother's side) made me love her.
"Everyone is different," Tia Juliana said calmly in her accented English. Her hand stroked my hair again. "There are people with six fingers on each hand. People who have super, innate abilities. Savants. There are people who have no conscience, who can kill others without caring." Her voice trailed off, but she took another breath. "People with injuries or illnesses that make them different. People who can't have children. People who are extra brave, people who are extra smart or extra pretty or extra something else. What is normal? What does it look like?"
It was the simplest, most beautiful explanation of how different, beautiful, and "normal" we all are in some way or another. But I digress.
After this encounter, Tia Juliana flew back home to South America and Vivi was left wandering in an empty house that had been filled with life and love a mere few days before. Through a series of events, Vivi discovers an envelope with the name Donella (whispered by her mother as she died) and address and follows it to New Orleans. Most of the story takes place there, and it becomes quite obvious that Cate Tiernan is a resident of NO.
Here, Vivi discovers a cousin she never knew and his closeasthis fiancee. They become connected and emotionally invested, and so begins the process of Vivi finding herself.
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For all the ranting and raving I'm about to do, I did actually really enjoy the book, and would readily read the second installment (if it were available). But what's a review without opposing viewpoints??
The character development was really good. I enjoyed watching Vivi go from a sniveling mess to a strong, beautiful haugura. The others characters were diverse and lovable as well.
The settings were described well. I'm really big on descriptions and such, and I was sufficiently content with how Tiernan described the vibrant, scenic nightlife of New Orleans.
Feelings and internal dialogue were great! As I said, I'm really big on descriptions and such. When I see a sentence or even a word that inspires great imagery or feeling in the reader(s), it just makes my heart soar.
One thing I really liked (I used both italics and bold, so you know I'm serious) was that when Vivi shifted, her thought process turned into that of an animal. There were no commas, no periods, and no sense of time. There was Vivi, her jaguar, and sunsets and sunrises.
I start to move
My paw breaks a twig the deer takes off it bounds eight feet it is panicked it zigzags through trees it turns sharply it knows this land
But i am a jaguar
Within twenty seconds I knock it to the ground I do not play with it I kill it instantly its skill is fine and delicate under my heavy jaw it does not suffer
I am exhilarated
Tell me that's not awesome!
Alright, I left out 2 crucial details (and 2 of my biggest annoyances): the love interest (Rafeal) and the bestie (Jennifer).
The bestie is my least favorite character, quite honestly. In the midst of Vivi's life shifting on its tiny access, Jennifer's life is also "shifting" -- in that, while Vivi is distraght and distracted by grief, Jennifer is going to a college that she hates and suffering her parents' orders. It's not made clear exactly what Jennifer is dealing with (*mild annoyance* on that one), but it's clear that it's obviously affecting her greatly -- a few times, Vivi notes that her besdtie looks tired, worn out, and seems to have lost some weight.
My biggest problem with Jennifer, however, is that it seemed she insisted on Vivi being her constant. They'd planned out this fabulous college life together (the wardrobe and even the greatest distance Vivi could achieve from her overbearing parents), but it had all been destroyed because, in the midst of her grief, Vivi no longer wanted to attend college. Vivi's life took a completely different route than either of them had planned, and when Vivi began building a life in New Orleans, Jennifer had no problem expressing her disagreement. Which upset me greatly.
It seemed to me like Jennifer wanted Vivi to live in Sugar Beach, Florida and wait for her to come home. She couldn't live in New Orleans and come visit when Jennifer was home; no, she had to live in Sugar Beach. Perhaps I got too personal with the book, and that's why I've written 3 paragraphs on my mild annoyance with Jennifer.
But yes. Jennifer annoyed me. She kept struggling to keep Vivi from changing just so she'd feel comfortable. Even though Vivi's life had already changed so drastically.
Another uber-annoyance of mine was Vivi absolutely refusing to contact her Tia Juliana.
Vivi's mother and her aunts apparently had some kind of falling out, where it ended up in on sister (Donella) basically being wiped from the family history. So when Vivi's parents die, through a series of events, she discovers Donella and tracks down her address, and discovers that Donella and her husband were killed in a "car crash" a year before. BUT their son is still alive and well (with his girlfriend and living with friends).
Vivi has to decide whether or not to tell her mom's other sister (Juliana) that she's found out about Donella. And in the grand scheme of all the shit hitting the fan, there are a few crucial questions that Juliana can answer.
The annoying part? Even when the situation turns as serious as it can get, not once does Vivi contact her aunt or even think of contacting her. NOT ONCE, my lovelies. Seriously? So risking death is better than risking a little wrath from your aunt? Who may very well want to know that her sister is dead?
And lastly: the love interest.
Now, Rafael was a great character. He was almost critical to Vivi's character development, and quite frankly, I liked the hunk I imagined when Tiernan described him.
But. There's a certain level of silliness and outright stupidity I allow for MCs in books, and Vivi just barely tipped toed the threshold here. I'm telling you.
There were so many hints that Rafeal was hauguri. SO. MANY.
The 2 biggest ones I saw were:
1.) He painted himself as a Jaguar
2.) When Rafe went missing (as his awful grandmother hinted he had), Vivi, Aly, and Mateo went to find Suzanne and James and also ended up finding a mysterious hauguro.
Who no doubt knows that Vivi is working at this nifty place called Ro's that he's managing *snicker snicker*
The two biggest hints that the universe could've conjured up, and Vivi was too stupid to see them. I don't think I've ever been so disappointed in an MC. It wouldn't be so horrible if Tiernan hadn't went to such lengths to stress how focused on Rafe Vivi always was. If she was so "focused" on him, you'd think she could've taken a hint or 10.
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