The Premise: Kyrie Smith and Tom Ormson both work at a the Athens Diner, in Goldport, Colorado, but they don’t really interact with one another. Then one night Kyrie goes out to the back parking lot of the diner to investigate a noise. She discovers Tom in dragon form, standing over a corpse. When he changes back to human form, he has no idea what happened, and Kyrie decides to help him until she can figure out what is going on. Kyrie is a shape-shifter too (her other form is a panther), and she understands the turmoil and loss of memory sometimes caused by the inner beast. The two find out that this is not the only body in recent weeks, and that Tom’s past is catching up with him: people he stole something from are looking for him.
Read an excerpt of the first six chapters of Draw One in the Dark here
My Thoughts: Tom is confused about what’s going on at first, particularly since he can’t remember why he’s standing over a dead body and is covered in it’s blood. Kyrie is the one who has it together and tells him what to do so he’s not caught naked and covered in blood. When they realize that they’re both shifters, the whole situation creates a sort of tenous bond even though Kyrie’s initial impression of Tom hasn’t been favorable. They get to know each other along the way, although after the scene at the restaurant they find themselves leaving a dangerous situation only to find themselves in another one before they begin to figure out what’s going on. Their two problems are the dead bodies that keep showing up, and the dangerous people chasing after Tom. Along the way, they are helped by other characters – Officer Trall, who is investigating the recent deaths, Keith, a college student who is Tom’s next door neighbor, and Tom’s father, who has connections to Tom’s pursuers.
This series has a completely different voice from the last Sarah Hoyt book I read, Darkship Thieves. Instead of first person, which is common in urban fantasy, Draw One in the Dark is in third person and jumps between Kyrie and Tom, and later, to a lesser extent, to Tom’s father, Edward Ormson. There is no kick-ass female heroine with special abilities. Instead we have a ragtag group of everyday, ordinary, people for which shifting has often been a burden. This book definitely does not romanticize the ability to shift or the shifters who can do so.
The ordinariness of the characters bring to mind the Kitty series by Carrie Vaughn so I think I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoyed that one. The world building here is much like that of Vaughn’s as well – it’s not necessarily a place where people understand magic and they react to it within what they can fathom. Kyrie and Tom for instance have no idea why they can change. It’s something that began to happen in puberty and upset their already-stressful teen lives. They’re still trying to figure out how it all works – how to tell other shifters, what affects their shifts, and how to have an ordinary life while keeping this side hidden. I liked that there’s enough complexity in the lives of the characters (not just in Kyrie and Tom’s) that we see missteps and flaws in all of what they do, even though ultimately these are the good guys. This is particularly true of Tom’s father Edward, who comes to Goldport thinking he has to clean up after his screw-up son again, only to realize that he may have failed his son as a father in the first place.
Before Draw One in the Dark starts, Kyrie didn’t think much of Tom, and wrote him off as a junkie who will eventually disappoint everyone, even if she has never seen him act high in the six months he’s been working at Athens. When she spends more time with him, she realizes that this impression was a self-defense mechanism. She’s actually attracted to him, but years in the foster system has made her wary. As for Tom, he’s always thought Kyrie was pretty but way out of his league. These observations about each other are often peppered throughout the story, and there’s a sort of puppy-dog eying of each other throughout with neither really doing much about it. Their fledgling romance is further complicated by Rafiel Trall – police officer and lion shifter who has an interest in Kyrie, particularly since she’s another cat shifter.
Overall: Quite a solid contemporary/urban fantasy, with a rather thoughtful perspective on shape-shifting and how it may affect a person’s life. It puts to mind books by Charles de Lint or Carrie Vaughn, mostly because the characters are ordinary and unvarnished. I thought that Tom and Kyrie’s awkward steps towards a courtship was sweet but romance here is not really of the searing kind. It’s more of an everyday, two kids you like who end up liking each other kind. I’d read the next book, Gentleman Takes a Chance, to see these characters grow. It also makes me realize how versatile this author is because the voice in this story is so very different from the other book I’ve read that was written by her.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | Baen ebook
I couldn’t find one through google’s social search, but I may have missed you. Let me know, and I’ll link the review!
You’ve done better than me – this has been sitting in my TBR pile forever, and even loving Darkship Thieves didn’t quite get me to pick it up.
One for the New Year, I think!
It’s very different — particularly the voice and the pacing. I think Darkship Thieves will continue to be my favorite.
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