Review: Frost Moon by Anthony Francis

Friday, September 16, 2011

Title: Frost Moon
Genre: supernatural/paranormal fiction
Series: Skindancer #1
Pages: 284 (uncorrected NetGalley ARC)
Published: March 2010
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

Dakota Frost, "the best magical tattooist in the Southeast" is a woman of many words - most of them "fuck" or full of bravado. In this supernaturally populated alternate version of Atlanta, magic is real and out. People who know and run in the magical sectors (vampires, weres, other creatures) are known as "Edgeworlders" and Miss Frost is definitely one of them. One of the many forms of magic or "mana" as it is referred to throughout the book, is the aspect of skindancing for which the series is named and Dakota, clearly, is a practitioner. Dakota has the admittedly cool ability to infuse her tattoos with "mana" and use them: as weapons to attack, as shields to defend, even as art. Holy crap - a protagonist with strong magic that will actually protect herself? I liked the direction Dakota was headed from the first chapter I read. The magical aspects of this novel are one of the high points: there's a ton of imagination and creativity present in Francis' version of supernatural abilities.  While some parts had me shaking my head in confusion (or dismay) the author deserves full kudos for conceiving principles of magic that are not run-of-the-mill and staid interpretations.

Dakota herself is a very strong character, if not always likeable. She's a multi-faceted "green" liberal, with more personality than she can deal with. She completely dominates any page she appears on, as well as almost overwhelming the personality of any other character. Dakota is a striking character - a woman over 6' with a deathhawk for hair? yeah she's attention getting - but I was sometimes skeeved out by how often Dakota was objectified... and how often she objectified some one else. I get that she's a free, bi-sexual woman with a healthy sexual appetite but every chance encounter she has with someone else doesn't have to - and shouldn't - involve overt over-the-top sexuality. I did like that she was more than capable and ready to defend herself, but didn't limit that to just magic: Dakota is proactive and smart. I did enjoy being in her head for most of the novel: the first person perspective is a great way to get to know Dakota, though her life is not an open book. I liked that the author kept some aspects of the character hidden; I don't want to know all about Dakota in the first two chapters of the book. There's clearly a lot of history/backstory between Dakota and a  lot of the other characters and the slow reveal is always better than a blunt infodump. She has clearly unhealthy relationships with her father and her "master" she apprenticed under, but no details are forthcoming for much of the story. Her dry and absolutely direct delivery felt appropriate for the character: this was exactly how it should feel to be in bad ass Dakota Frost's head. Be warned: there is a LOT of cursing in these books, so if that puts you off I wouldn't recommend this series. But I digress...

The "mystery" element of the novel was also pretty well done. I didn't guess who the creepy ass killer was until practically the page it was revealed. The gruesomely interesting hunt for the killer who flayed off magical tattoos felt perfectly in tone with the rest of the novel - and Dakota's life. I was also pretty genuinely creeped out by the antagonist in this novel, and felt deeply uncomfortable with his modus operandi. With such a wide and varied cast of characters (there's a blind graphomancer, the exgirlfriend Christian bondage vampire queen, a fire mage, biker vampires, a stray weretiger, a traveling magician.. the list goes on) the author did a brilliant job of distributing the suspicion and tension among them all. While there may be a bit too much going on at all times (I don't recall Dakota sleeping at all in this novel and it takes place over a week at least) and a helter-skelter feel to the final last sixty pages, the tension is taut throughout and kept me turning pages at a high frequency. From the many and varied adventures Dakota endures, to the cast of three dimensional  helpful characters and the obvious fun Francis is having telling his tale, I, for the most part, enjoyed this fast-paced thrillride. The ending hits the perfect note: an unexpected turn of events along with keen anticipation to see what else Francis has up his sleeve for the sequel. At least two more books are planned (and I've already ready part two titled Blood Rock) so hopefully I can expect some growth for Dakota, less objectification of people, and a lot of fun reading.


  1. Wonderful review -- the objectification of the heroine woudl totally drive me bonkers -- I feel like it's a bit of the Tomb Raider effect, i.e. tough women must be sexual (hyper sexualized) to prove they're not 'dykes' or something. Also "exgirlfriend Christian bondage vampire queen"?! Awesome/horrifying!

  2. Good review! I had selected this book, but didn't get past a few pages; it creeped me out, and not in a good way. I'm glad you (sort of) enjoyed it--after reading your review, I am so happy that I didn't read any more--not my cup of tea! Not for me. Rae

  3. Well, it sounds like the author wanted to do the Sookie Stackhouse thing but with a stronger woman for a main character. And anyone knows sex sells, so of course she'll put in lots.
    More women than you'd expect secretly want to rock a deathhawk, stalk the land and sleep with lots of people, but are too busy earning a living and living up to other people's expectations. Books like these fulfill that hidden urge.
    -Mac Campbell

  4. Audra: No kidding right - a Christian lesbian bondage vampire queen - I think I knew then there'd be a LOT going on with this lol.

    Rae: I can see why. There were definitely more thana few elements that skeeved me out (Dakota's first interactions with her future adopted daughter for one..) but in the end, I had fun.

    Mac: I definitely got an Anita Blake/Sookie Stackhouse vibe from the overt sexuality and apparent irresistibly. :D

  5. Wow, that was a great review.I can't believe she is rocking a deathhawk, that is awesome.

    I would worry about the over-the-top sexuality aspect because I don't want to read a book where the heroine can't go 60 pages without getting into someone's pants. That is so annoying. I'm thinking it's more like Sookie than Anita. But please correct me if I'm wrong.

  6. Nice review :) I had a big problem too with a lot of the elements in this book - the objectification of the heroine, her objectification of others, the often skeevy sex stuff (Cinnamon comes to mind), and NGL the bondage scene really creeped me out. But I liked how the author took typically "scary" things to the more mainstream crowd and made them all very human. The plot was a bit scattered, but it was an interesting book, and I'm glad to see the sequel is on NetGalley. I'll have to check it out!

  7. First of all - I LOVE your guys' blog! One of my favorites consistently.
    I hadn't thought of the author turning the "scariness" out of the monsters but I can see that point now. They all seemed.. fairly human for vamps/weres. I can't wait to see if you guys review #2!

  8. Aw, thanks! :DDDD Well, not just that they were vamps and weres, but that they were members of different subcultures that are usually either a) used tokenly in books (LGBT, homeless, bikers, tattooists, etc), and/or b) just don't developed very much, if they're present at all (lolita, hackers, again, lesbian bondage vampire queens lol), so he took these subcultures that many people would normally be frightened or weary of and developed them as people. My favorite scene was the one where they're all in the bar just shooting the shit. It was definitely the most human!

    And I just requested it on NetGalley, thanks to your review :)


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