Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Flux (July 1, 2010)
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound
Feathers unfurl from my skin. My plummet curves into a swoop, and I tuck my talons beneath my body. From girl to great horned owl in about a second. Pretty good, huh?
Gwen Williams is like any other modern teenager with one exception: she's a shapeshifter. Never having known her Pooka-spirit father, Gwen must struggle with the wild, wonderful magic inside of her alone—and in secret. While society may tolerate vampires, centaurs, and "Others" like Gwen, there are plenty of folks in Klikamuks, Washington, who don't care for her kind.
Now there's a new werewolf pack in town, and Others are getting killed, including Gwen's dryad friend. The police are doing zilch. In the midst of terrible loss and danger, Gwen meets a cute Japanese fox spirit who's refreshingly comfortable with his Otherness. Can Gwen find the courage to embrace her true self and find the killer—before she becomes the next victim?
“I can't last much longer. It's been one week, three days and I can't remember how many hours. ”
“Whatever. I've earned this. I'll be careful. I've been a good little girl for long enough. It's easy to transform again, I'm so giddy with the lingering magic. Back to girl I go. I climb through the window and onto the roof. Naked, I curl my bare toes around shingles and grin nervously in the moonlight. I hope nobody's awake.
Wind tosses my curls. I clench my hands and stir the magic inside me. Power boils through my veins, dizzying me. Concentrate. The night snaps into sharper focus. I jump. My arms, my wings, strain upward. Feathers unfurl from my skin. My plummet curves into a swoop, and I tuck my talons beneath my body.
From girl to great horned owl in about a second. Pretty good, huh?” -Page 3
What is a pooka you ask? According to Gwen's old textbooks, pookas were described as mythical creatures that "show up as a dark horse with glowing golden eyes, stalking travelers on murky nights, inviting them on wild rides, throwing them into bogs, over cliffs"…you get the picture right?
The world building of OTHER ended up being the strongest component for me. It was intriguing to immerse myself into a novel with leprechauns, dryads, water sprites and pookas. Most seemed to be trying to live out quiet lives in normal towns when they were not-so-normal people themselves. I also appreciated the issues of tolerance and prejudice that the "Others" had to deal with, particularly the werewolves of Winema's pack who were literally forced out of Canada before settling outside of Gwen's town. The scene when Gwen met Winema was well written and the wolf pups nearly broke my heart. Just like in any society, some Others were regarded as a higher class and certain Others, like vampires and werewolves were viewed with fear and hatred. I found that interesting and was intrigued by the class distinctions, as well as the unique magical abilities of the Others themselves.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time really connecting to Gwen. I also thought the pacing was rather slow, especially in the beginning. I knew straightaway who the killer would target next, and that predictability took away a lot of the emotional punch when that event occurred down the line. However, when Gwen began interacting with Tavian, a Japanese fox kitsune spirit (how cool is that?), I thought the pacing accelerated and I began to appreciate Gwen a lot more. She proved herself to be a loyal friend and showed tremendous courage when it came to solving the the murders.
An unusual mix of magic and mystery, OTHER was chocked full of interesting characters and an intriguing plot line. Though slow to start, it is a series with a lot of potential. The next book entitled BLOODBORN releases in 2011.
*SIDE NOTE: I was in Ireland a few months back and went to a dinner hosted by a professional folklorist called "Food, Folklore & Fairies". I remember him referencing pookas as they related to 18th century peasant life. He joked that men would blame the pooka as the reason why they were coming home late from the local pubs. The man would tell his wife, "I left the pub with every intention of coming home to you but that "darn pooka" got me—it's not my fault." (Apparently pookas seemed to enjoy waiting for intoxicated men to exit pubs, only to sidle under their legs while they stumbled drunkenly about. The man would insist the last thing he remembered was being taken on a wild ride through the night and then thrown off the back of the pooka into a ditch! I wonder if that excuse really worked?)
A shameless nerd and lover of snark, Karen lives in western Washington, where she recently graduated from The Evergreen State College. She ripped off her hometown of Snohomish, WA for the fictional locale of Klikamuks, where Other takes place. When she’s not at her computer, writing, she’s probably out in the forest with her notebook, writing, or on a photography expedition with her trusty digital camera. She likes to imagine werewolves lurking among the trees.
Karen is represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, Inc. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.Visit Karen Kincy's Official Website.