They Call Me Death
by Missy Jane, fantasy (2009)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-387-6


The world as Alexia Williams knew it was gone three years ago when shapeshifters announced their existence in a frenzy of bloodshed and Alexia lost her husband and young son in the violence that followed. She became a member of a human militant group, not afraid to be as inhuman as needed when it comes to ensuring that the shifters know their place. America has since become divided into the north and south, only this time the south comprises humans who are determined to keep the shifters of the north out of their territory by any means possible.

Not that Lex is a militant zealot - as the years drag past, she becomes weary of the constant killing and she is also aware that she is slowly turning into the kind of monsters that she kills. But it's not as if she can just walk away from everything, no? The shifters are monsters that need to be destroyed, monsters who killed her husband and son... or so she believes until she meets Andor, a 300-year old shifter who needs her help to locate shifters that are missing in her territory.

Do you think I'm excited about this story? Oh, I am, trust me. I love a good epic post-apocalyptic alternate Earth story and I am sure I am going to enjoy this one... until the heroine, built up to be the toughest and the most bad-ass bitch of the land, foolishly allows herself to be outnumbered and needing rescue (by the hero, of course) on page 17. Okay, that's nothing to be worried about - every woman, even the bad-ass ones, has a bad hair day, after all. But unfortunately, this remains a pattern in this story. Lex is another heroine who talks the talk - she is supposed to have killed the most number of shifters in the country, if not beyond - but in this story, she is always in a position of weakness so that Andor can conveniently rush to her side in times of trouble. Lex gets to be aggressive now and then, but those moments do not mean much as Andor is always by her side. The ultimate insult is when she has to be rescued by a male secondary character in a pivotal moment late in the story. If I were a shifter, I'd have grown fangs after reading that scene.

I would be far more sanguine about Lex's less-than-impressive antics if Ms Jane hasn't hyped her and continues to do so in this story as this amazing kickass superhero woman who can trounce shifters with her guns and sword. Don't tell me, show me, sigh.

The story is also surprisingly slow moving for its setting, and this won't be so bad if those slower moments are filled with dramatic moments as Lex tries to reconcile her attraction to Andor with her hatred for his kind. Alas, in this story, Lex falls in love with Andor way too easily to be believable and the conversations in those scenes serve more to explain the social behavior and history of the shifters rather than to explore Lex's conflicted emotions.

In conclusion, I'd say that I had high hopes for They Call Me Death when I saw the cover and read the first ten pages. But all that excitement gives way to crushing disappointment when I realize that Lex is all bark but little bite and this story has its priorities in all the wrong places. That beautiful setting... all wasted, sigh.

Rating: 69


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