Never Look Back
Grade : C+

Paranormal fans hungry for something other than the usual vampires and werewolves on the market will find it in Sheri WhiteFeather's Never Look Back. An intriguing blend of Native American mysticism, witchcraft and spirits both good and evil, it's not quite strong enough that I can recommend, but it's certainly worth a look for those looking for something different.

Allie Whirlwind comes from a long line of powerful - and evil - witches. Allie and her sister try to fight this dark legacy by using their own talents for good. Olivia is a psychic who works with the police, while Allie is a shaman still learning about her own powers. One night she paints a portrait of an angel as a protective figure to keep evil at bay. Shortly thereafter, a raven flies into her loft. No mere bird, it transforms into a human male right before her eyes. Though not the angel she envisioned, he bears an uncanny resemblance to her painting.

A hundred years ago, Raven was cursed by Allie's great-grandmother when he chose another woman over her. As revenge, she took part of the Apache warrior's soul and transformed him into the bird, vowing to steal the rest a century later and doom him for all eternity. Though her great-grandmother is long dead, there are signs her spirit is still working to finish the curse. Allie joins forces with Daniel Deer Runner, a veterinary technician at the zoo who knows about Native American myths and magic, to find a magical amulet that is key to Raven's fate.

This is the sequel to Whitefeather's previous Silhouette Bombshell, Always Look Twice, which starred Allie's sister Olivia. Both books reminded me of the Silhouette Shadows line, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned, but Allie is a more likable and less aggressively abrasive than her sister. The book does stand on its own; the relevant backstory from the previous book is explained quickly and clearly and there isn't too much of it. Newcomers should have no trouble jumping in without feeling too lost.

As I hope the plot summary indicates, the storyline is very creative and unique. From the opening passages, as Allie completes her painting while an ominous wind blows through her loft, I found it quite compelling. Raven is a poignant figure, having lived a hundred years as a bird with no idea of what happened to his beloved wife after his disappearance. The author effectively uses flashbacks to show the events that led to Raven's plight. The real-life history, such as his childhood years in a boarding school where the Americans tried to make the Apache children more like the whites, is empathetically portrayed, adding a level of realism to this supernatural tale. The Native American aspects throughout are consistently interesting. At the same time, the paranormal elements are done in a convincing fashion, never challenging the reader's suspension of disbelief. They seem to completely fit in the world these characters inhabit. There are some very creepy moments and cool scenes, and the plot is nicely unpredictable, never giving away where it's going too soon. The pace is fast, and I breezed through the book in a couple of hours.

I liked a great deal about this book and seriously considered giving it a marginal recommendation. But while the story WhiteFeather has devised is a good one, the execution doesn't always match it. She won't win any style points for her prose. It's readable enough, but a little too stark and terse. This is especially clear in the story's climax, when something happens to place one of the characters in major jeopardy. It's a huge moment that should be really hard-hitting. It isn't, though, because the author relates the moment as little more than, "This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened." More description through most of the book would have really enhanced the tale and brought it more fully to life. As it is, the bare bones prose does make for a very fast read, but prevents the story having the impact it could have.

The character development is close to nonexistent. The cast is only somewhat sketched out, and we learn little about them outside the confines of this story. I liked Allie and greatly empathized with Raven and his now-dead wife, but otherwise, the characters don't make much of an impression. The idea of Daniel as a sexy Native American geek is more interesting in concept than in execution. Bombshells are not romance novels, but even by those more lenient standards the relationship that develops here is unconvincing.

Every once in a while, Ebert and Roeper will give "an affectionate thumbs down" to a movie, something they can't wholly recommend but still enjoyed to a degree. That's how I felt about Never Look Back. It's unusual, it's often fascinating, and I had a nice enough time reading it. I don't think it's strong enough that I can absolutely say, "Yes, go buy this." But readers with a taste for the atypical and the supernatural may find it worth their time, especially if you're as weary of vampires and werewolves as I am.

Reviewed by Leigh Thomas
Grade : C+
Book Type: Fantasy | Series Fiction

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 10, 2006

Publication Date: 2006/03

Review Tags: PoC

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