The Werewolf's Kiss
by Cheri Scotch, fantasy (2003)
ibooks, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-7455-4


Were not for this book's containing a few scenes of gore and sexually-charged violence, I would have thought I am reading a young adult werewolf novel. Cheri Scotch's The Werewolf's Kiss has its charms, but the haphazard introduction of characters with little room for character development and its very predictable story make this book come off as unsophisticated and underbaked.

Let's see, this book tells the story of a few werewolves and Voodoo practitioner, all living in Louisiana. It's hard to describe the plot without giving away the plot twists in the story, so let me just say that it involves an evil Voodoo boss pitting his magic against the good Voodoo practitioner, Mae. Mae happens to be sleeping with Achille Broussard, a ridiculously stereotypical Cajun hot cop type (complete with shades) who also happens to be the most powerful werewolf around. Or something. Along the way, we have Sylvie Marley, a young woman who's just learning that she's a werewolf, much to the dismay of her father Andrew that denies his lupine legacy. Sylvie catches the attention of Bad Mr Juju, and somehow there's a boyfriend, Lucien, that pops in out of the blue in the late third of the book to make Sylvie a woman. Or something. Meanwhile, Mae talks about two legendary werewolves, one that go around imparting sage advice while the other brings bad luck to those that meet him. In Louisiana, it's a really small world, so in the end, everyone's a relative or lover or friend or enemy to somebody else in this ensemble cast. It's not that hard to join the dots. This story isn't so complex.

I keep saying "something" in my sorry attempt at giving a summary of this story because very little of her story is actually developed by the author. Instead, she relies on caricatures - Achille is ridiculous from his speech to his swagger to his clothes, Sylvie is the innocent sweet lil' chile with great power, Mae is the pure and gentle all-knowing type, and the villain is laughably over-the-top in everything he says and does. The author is aware of how ridiculous her Bad Mr Juju is, though, because Mae calls the bad guy on his over-the-top circus show during their confrontation. But with the stark black-and-white storyline here leaving little for more subtle interpretations of the conflict, the story is predictable enough without being bogged down by one-dimensional characters. Lucian, the boyfriend, is the worst. That guy just appears out of nowhere for a few chapters and the author expects me to care about him.

Then there is the annoying speech patterns. What's with Achille going "ooo-wee" (the italics are as per the way they are set in the book) every time he opens his mouth? And what's with teenaged boys calling their girlfriends "toots"? I don't care if people in Lousiana go "Ooo-wee toots! Ooo-wee toots!" all day long, as long as I don't have to read about it because by the end of the book I will happily strangle Achille myself into blessed silence.

Maybe the severely underdeveloped plot and characters of The Werewolf's Kiss is due to the fact that the author intends to write more books in this series. But the excerpt for the next book suggests that the author will be focusing on Andrew instead of these bunch of ooo-wees, so I don't know. Even so, Ms Scotch's almost too idealistic black-and-white depictions of her characters with little room for subtlety or ambiguity may alienate fans of the horror and dark fantasy genre more used to reading about antiheroic undeads and mythical beasties. The good werewolves and Voodoo priestesses here preach happy peacecake values and the gruesome scenes in this book are always followed by a long lecture telling reader how horrible such behaviors of the bad guys are. This book is almost anachronistic in how starkly it defines its good and bad guys. Paradoxically, Ms Scotch also writes about the virtues of vigilante justice - Achille is good because he kills men that are murderers, et cetera, that is, men that deserve their fate. Or so Ms Scotch insists. I don't know, really. It's a bit of a 180 degrees kind of justification going on here, if you ask me.

I do know, however, that this book is noticeably underwritten and will be easily forgotten soon after I'm done with it. That little flaw is enough to suggest that Ms Scotch should seriously consider spending some more time and even pages developing her characters and plots more if she wants her books to give her more established rivals in the market a run for their money.

Rating: 68


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