(Riley Jenson Guardian, Book 1)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 357 Pages
Date: 1st February 2011 (First Published 2006)
HALF VAMPIRE. HALF WEREWOLF. ALL TROUBLE.
In an alternate reality Australia, supernatural beings walk openly among humanity, policed by a government agency that keeps the non-human, criminal element in check. Riley Jenson, a lowly office worker within the Directorate of Other Races becomes an unlikely heroine (despite her werewolf/vampire hybrid nature) when her twin brother becomes the latest agent to go missing while on assignment. What initially seems to be a simple missing persons case turns into something much more sinister when Riley uncovers a disturbing conspiracy with the aid of the last person to see her brother alive.
Anyone who has read enough urban fantasy by female authors will take for granted the inclusion of certain constituent tropes in every book. For example, the protagonist will invariably be an independent, kick-ass heroine who can beat the living daylights out of any man, without so much as breaking a sweat. She will be an annoyingly quirky personality, with a tendency to exhibit neurotic behaviour. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that her love life/sex life will be an unnecessarily complicated mess; all told in the first person.
Yes, it’s fair to say that urban fantasy literature has a penchant for being very predictable. So when originality is not the order of the day, it is essential that an author mitigates the predictability by not needlessly dragging things out. Ideally, the story should progress quickly and avoid losing momentum, something Keri Arthur successfully manages to accomplish with Full Moon Rising. Which is just as well, because this first instalment of the Riley Jenson Guardian series is replete with all the expected urban fantasy tropes, and devoid of any genuine surprises or unexpected plot twists.
Despite the lack of originality, in terms of narrative and plot, Arthur has at least created a protagonist with an interesting backstory that makes her slightly more memorable than most encountered in urban fantasy. In every other respect, this “quirky, kick-ass” heroine, Riley Jenson, is much like the typical female protagonist of the genre, especially when it comes to the obligatory complicated love/sex life shenanigans. For much of the book, Riley flits between three love interests, or more precisely, one love interest and two “fuck buddies” whom she uses for sex. Surprisingly, these two “mates” are actually integral to the book’s plot, and not just devices for Arthur to write several hilarious (to me at least) sex scenes.
When Riley is not engaged in gratuitous casual sex, she is in a race against the clock to find her twin brother, Rhoan, and ensure that he doesn’t become the eleventh “Guardian” working for the Directorate of Other Races to never be seen again after disappearing without trace. With the assistance of an amnesiac vampire who saw her brother last, she resolves to get to the bottom of the conspiracy behind the disappearances. A task made more difficult by the “moon heat”: the week long period before the full moon when Riley’s werewolf libido goes into hyper-drive, leaving her irresistibly in need of sex as often as possible. (Please don’t laugh.)
Tempting as it is to dismiss Full Moon Rising as just a guilty pleasure, to be enjoyed then quickly discarded, that would be doing the book and its author a little bit of a disservice. Sure, the plot is run-of-the-mill, and the characters are lacking in any kind of depth, but the narrative is action packed and fast moving, rarely slowing down to let readers catch their breath. Nor does the author seek to keep anyone guessing as to what happens next by needlessly dragging out the book’s few mysteries. All the twists and turns are revealed swiftly as the story progresses.
For readers who can look past Riley constantly reminding them of just how horny she is, and how badly she needs to go to the nightclub for some hot sweaty sex, or how she can’t wait to meet up with her well endowed fuck buddy, Talon, for some hard and fast, rough sex, or how she can’t wait to meet up with her sweet, friend with benefits, Misha, for some slow and gentle sex, or how much she wants to have sex with Quinn the unwilling, amnesiac vampire, there is actually much to be enjoyed in this book. More than enough to warrant reading the next instalment of the series.
While Full Moon Rising is not a must read book of the highest order, by any stretch of the imagination, it’s certainly one that is easy to recommend to readers looking for a sexually explicit urban fantasy novel, particularly fans of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton.