Prowlers by Christopher Golden - PG-13 - ****
I have never read a book about shapeshifters that I loved as much as this book.*
I have never read a series about shapeshifters that I loved as much as this series.
(The first book in this series is simply called Prowlers. See full list below.)
At age nineteen, Jack Dwyer's best friend Artie is murdered. Not by humans, but by Prowlers, a group of ancient creatures whose handiwork is typically thought to be that of wolves.
But these are no wolves. They are animals, but their ability to think, their emotions and their need for revenge makes them as cunning as humans. Jack, as well as most of America, knows nothing of the Prowlers... That is, until Artie travels from the Ghostlands to tell his friend what truly happened.
Prowlers is positively riveting and inventive. I am very glad that it is the first in a new series, because even before the book was through, I was captivated by the villains, connected to the protagonists, and yearning to go on the prowl again.
The leader of the pack, Owen Tanzer, is determined to unite the Prowlers and make humans feel their power. Tanzer's right hand gal, Jasmine, is also something to contend with. It is as if Golden took Exotica from "Cats" and made her real, feral and evil. With her cocoa skin and orange eyes, Jasmine always goes the whole nine (lives?) yards.
Aside from Jack, my other favorite "good guy" is Molly. She embodies the 'final girl' syndrome from horror films: she must kill to survive. Golden always treats his female characters well, making them unique, strong individuals.
One of my favorite scenes occurs in a subway scene and involves jumping over turnstiles, fighting between cars, and a police cover-up. In other words, thoroughly modern Hitchcock.
The entire book flows wonderfully, pulsing along with the reader's heartbeat, causing them to inhale and exhale sharply with the protagonists, run with them, follow them through Boston, and come to conclusions both unexpected and life-altering.
Each main character has a distinct personality. Jack as the boy death left behind. Courtney as the older, injured sister. Molly as the spunk and the heart. Artie as the best friend and the ghost. At the same time, they are all victims: Jack and Courtney, of the car accident that took their mother's life and injured Courtney, thereby giving injury-free Jack a lifetime of guilt; Molly, of her upbringing, with her own mother issues; and Artie, who loses his life due to the Prowlers. The villains are just as multi-layered and captivating. They are cruel and come from an ancient evil, but they are also torn and distracted by their own loyalties and flaws.
The subsequent titles in the series are just as good as the first. This series should be read in order.
Laws of Nature
Predator and Prey
The last book is a whopper. It includes one of my favorite split-second scenes ever. I love it.
(Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to learn what inspired Golden to write Prowlers.)
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld - PG-13 - ****
This book wastes no time and jumps right into the action. It begins with a hunt for a vampire. Before long, readers learn than the main character, Cal, moved from Texas to New York, fell in love with a girl, and became parasite-positive. In other words, vampirism is a disease, and it can be passed from person to person unknowingly or otherwise.
I don't want to give away too much here. I want to encourage you to read this book. It combines horror and science, fact with fiction, and it is darkly funny.
The Menagerie series by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski - PG-13 - ****
The Menagerie is made up of legendary characters, each with his or her own powers and mystical, mythical origins. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a mage and leads the group. Eve, after falling from grace, became a vampire and now fights on the side of good, not evil. Teenager Danny is a changeling.
Also in the group: Clay, who is from New Orleans, was from Eden (yes, you read that correctly), and can take any form. I think Clay would be friends with Gambit from X-Men. He's neat. It's nice to have a shapeshifter that isn't evil or part-demon.
Read the series in order:
The Nimble Man
Tears of the Furies
I want to recommend one of my favorite books to you, Kiba, and to any of you reading this. However, if I place it on this list, its very inclusion will spoil an important part of the story. If you want to know, post a comment below and I will reveal the title to you.
There are many comments below, because I have read a great deal of books in this vein - no pun intended - but because I love the genre so much, I am extremely picky about which titles I want to place on this list, within the actual post. For similarly-themed titles that I've read but didn't love, read the comments.