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Stray (Shifters #1) by Rachel Vincent
618 pages
Published June 1st 2007
Buy at Amazon

There are only eight breeding female werecats left . . .
And I’m one of them.

I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.

Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.

I’d been warned about Strays — werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.

This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back . . . for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I’m no meek kitty. I’ll take on whatever — and whoever — I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays — ’cause I got claws, and I’m not afraid to use them . . .


**Possible spoilers, very slight and will not ruin the story.

There are a few things that keep me from loving the crap out of this book and yet, at the same time, I practically salivated over every scene. Stray tosses in a lot of things that just don’t work for me and yet somehow, in the end, it manages to completely ensnare me regardless of what I didn’t like and thought was wrong.

Prides/Alphas/and Women: I’ve read this before. The females of the species are rare and ~super special~ because there’s not a lot of them. We never get a full answer of why in Shifters and that bugs me. Why? Because Faythe (what an awful spelling), although ~super special~ is ordered around, over-protected, pushed and tripped, and not taken seriously (for the most part) because she is a female. Not only that, but she basically has an arranged marriage which her father forced her into, or as she said, she fell hard- into his bed and then was told to take it slow. I mean, COME ON NOW. The double standard between the males and females is way too harsh. It’s something that Faythe constantly protests, and in return she’s riddled with threats that make her fearful. Of course, Faythe argues her case like a sixteen year old argues about staying out late- the wrong way (Not to mention she’s 23!!). She doesn’t like the way she’s treated, but she never calls out the double standard. She never says, “I want to be treated exactly like the boys. I want the same privileges and the same course of discipline.” in her arguments. What’s worse is while wanting to be ~free~ she indulges (? No, wrong word…takes for granted) in the fact that females are not disciplined by the same rules, if at all (which her brothers and not-so-boyfriend overlook and give her a hand slap). I’d have skinned her hide on multiple occasions. You want to play with the other big cats? You’ve got to learn to follow the same rules. You can’t have it both ways if you’re fighting for equality.

There’s a slight love triangle, or should I say, lead him on triangle. Marc, Faythe’s ex-boyfriend, is an over-possessive don’t touch my ex or I’ll kill you type with a temper. Why is this type of guy sexy? Yes, he has his sweet moments (and I can’t deny that I drooled a little during their, um, adult scenes), but his possessiveness is off the charts. Then, there’s Jace, smooth talking, make your mouth water Jace. She never denies his advances even when she KNOWS she doesn’t need to take it further. This results in Jace being beaten, all because her ex-boyfriend can’t keep his temper in check. Yes, Faythe leads Jace on, there’s no denying it because she never does anything to stop it. Unless Marc chills with the possessiveness, I’m rooting for Jace hands down.

Don’t even get me started on Faythe. The girl can eat raw deer in werecat form, but can’t stomach fried chicken skin. Am I the only one who sees the problem? Girl, you eat nastier things than the best part of fried chicken. Not only that, but because of certain circumstances she’s says she’d rather die than be raped. She wouldn’t want to save her life, she’d end it so she didn’t have to go through rape. I can’t understand this because I’m entirely the opposite. I would do anything in my power to survive, because my survival ensures that I can kill the bastard and make him suffer. She wants so badly to be independent and free of the Pride, but decides so easily that she’d rather die. I will never understand it and it’s one of the reasons why I can’t relate to her. She’s a damn good fighter and holds her own, but to give up over something when you can survive and dish payback…? *sigh* Faythe is also wishy-washy when it comes to Marc and basically all things. She can’t make up her mind and her attitude is just…I expected more of an adult personality, not a brat.

The story itself is a little predictable if you follow the hints. It’s not a bad story, in fact, like I said above, I was salivating over it. There was some over descriptive paragraphs which I speed read, but mostly the writing had a nice flow that made it easy to read and follow and at the same time was able to keep me on my toes and wanting more. I’ll also say that the side characters are fantastic. From her parents, to her brothers, to even the evil villains- I give them all straight As. They’re what helps give this story life. Without them, Faythe’s story just wouldn’t have been the same.

Base line: Faythe is an annoying character with tendencies that drive me nuts, but not so bad that I can’t feel anything for her at all. Same goes for Marc, I don’t hate him, but he’s got to shape up if he expects me to actually root for him.
There is rape and a sex scene and of course, attempted rape. This isn’t a YA book, at times it can read like one, but it definitely is NOT.

Side observation:
I’m gonna come out and say that it makes no sense for her dad to be pushing Marc onto her. First of all, he’s a Stray and because of such is a ‘second class citizen’. Faythe is, pure-blooded, I guess you could say. Her father is pretty strict on Strays and it’s said Strays are not usually allowed into the Pride. DO YOU SEE? It makes no sense! They fight so hard to patrol and punish Strays, and yet, her dad wants her to…breed with Marc. My mind is blowing. I don’t care if he was saved or whatever. I need a more thorough explanation.

Also: her clothes. (I might be thinking of the next book, but she did wear revealing clothes in Stray too.) It’s just crazy that she wears clothes that show her cleavage and her stomach, then has low riding pants on, but she doesn’t like it when men stare or observe. No, dressing like that does not give men a free pass, but expecting them NOT to look is just stupid. If you hate it so much cover up, otherwise, shut up and suck it up.