Title: They Call Me Death
Author: Missy Jane
Publication Date: 2009
Paperback: 208 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Review Copy
Reviewed by: Carolyn
My name is Alexia Williams. In my world, North America is divided between north and south but not the way it’s taught in the history books. After losing my family to the shifters, I joined the Combined Human States Army. Now I find myself on the front lines, defending the wall between my species and theirs. My mission is simple: keep the animals on their side by whatever means necessary and I’m good at it. I don’t talk to them. I don’t sympathize with them. I sure as hell don’t admire them until one saves my life.
Andor isn’t like any shifter I’ve ever met. He’s a three-hundred-year-old golden eagle asking for help finding missing shifters who may be in my lands. I just have to decide between helping the animals or ignoring signs that my fellow humans aren’t what I thought they were. But how can I help a species I hate and fear? Even if Andor makes me feel alive again? In the land of the shifters they call me Death.
“They Call Me Death” is a very strong title, which means this book had a lot to live up to. It started out well, with a prologue that was pretty intriguing, but unfortunately it fell at the first chapter due to poorly thought-out world-building and unimaginative characters.
In the prologue we are told how the world became what it is; an America divided into North and South between shifters and humans. Alexia is at home with her husband and child and watches a news anchor-man kill everyone in the studio live on TV, after shifting into a cougar.
This suggests that shifters had been living alongside humans for years, taking on human jobs, living human lives. However, further along in the next few chapters the main character, Alexia, tells us how she is able to differentiate between species even in human form due to “canines having overbites” (let me point out here that in another paragraph a few pages on it states ‘underbite‘), “felines can’t hide their teeth when they talk” and “reptilians can be spotted by their skin” – wouldn’t this have been noticeable before the shifters declared war and ate their work colleagues?
There is also mention that shifters had families – human families. How is this possible? What about children? Were they born shifters and if so wouldn’t the parent have noticed reptilian skin or feline teeth?
The plot is also rather thin. In a nut shell there’s a laboratory where shifters are presumably being held for some kind of experimentation. Andor, a Golden Eagle shifter, thinks his daughter is being held there and needs Alexia’s help. There are a few twists along the way but that’s pretty much it. We are given no explanation as to why the shifters turned on humans so violently and so suddenly.
Most of the story is ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’ which makes for tiresome reading, and the author had a habit of skipping chunks of the story by adding “10 days passed”, “after two weeks” or jumping to the next day. Wouldn’t it have been better to show us what happened rather than tell us in retrospect in the next chapter?
Being called “Death” by the enemy is a pretty big statement and Alexia had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately she didn’t manage it and did absolutely nothing to back it up, as we never get to see her in action. We do see her, however, throwing her weight around with the guys at work. This was a little unrealistic to be honest, especially when she’s only five foot eight and the guys she works with are well built and six feet tall. There needed to be more evidence as to why these guys would be scared of her and why shifters nicknamed her “Death”.
Alexia and Andor’s relationship happens too fast and isn’t particularly explosive or toe curling. It took them only a couple of weeks to fall in love and shorter still for Alexia to trust him, even though she has a self-proclaimed loathing of shifters due to them killing her husband and child. The sex scenes were awkward and clumsy and didn’t get me hot and bothered at all.
Andor’s most appealing aspect is that he shifts into a Golden Eagle, which I think are magnificent birds. The author did try and express how beautiful and powerful Andor is in bird form but didn’t quite manage it and therefore I didn’t get a sense of how amazing he is.
Also, with just a little bit of research you can learn that Golden Eagles have a flight speed of approximately 30 miles per hour; their wing span can be up to 7 feet and they can carry prey three times their own body weight. Andor in shifter form is 6 feet tall with a wing span on 15 feet – therefore, taking all this into consideration, why oh why were Andor and Alexia running for their lives from the Alpha of the shifter divide when all he had to do was carry her and fly?
Although Alexia didn’t get the opportunity to show us why shifters called her ‘Death’, she did have a tough-guy attitude, but her demeanour changed almost immediately when she met Andor. He kept telling her to keep behind him or wait in the other room. She even leaned into him at times like a simpering wimp! This isn’t evidence of a woman called “Death”!
Another aspect I found rather strange was all the shifters seemed to speak in formal English, and yet have mixed with human society for years, blending in, pretending to be human, surely modern day speech would have rubbed off, if not then the human’s around them would have found them all rather odd. Alexia starts out sounding like a modern day woman, but for some reason even she begins to speak formally:
I’m not his to command, but I may be death for you unless you explain why you’re here unbidden,” I replied.
I really wanted to like “They Call Me Death” as I am a huge urban fantasy fan, but it had a lot to live up to with such a statement for a title – unfortunately the heroine, Alexia didn’t pull it off. The world building and plot needed a lot more thought and better execution. It could have done with being longer with more ‘show’ than ‘tell’. There were too many unanswered questions and hugely noticeable inconsistencies. I was constantly niggled, frowning in displeasure and sighing with annoyance. I may be reading about supernatural beings but it still has to be believable.
However, it wasn’t the most awful book I’ve ever read, but would I recommend it? No…there are far too many fantastic urban fantasy novels to be read, so I wouldn’t waste your time with this one.
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