Winter Halo: An Outcast Novel by Keri Arthur (book review)

January 26, 2017 | By | Reply More

It is always refreshing to have novels set in places other than the USA or the UK. Keri Arthur sets her stories on her home continent of Australia, most in and around Melbourne. Until now, the landscapes have been largely recognisable if slightly futuristic. Her characters have been supernatural beings caught up in actions to keep the human population safe. Some of the themes that occurred in the earlier books are magnified in the background to this series. At an unspecified time in the future, war broke out between the shifters and the humans. Both sides played dirty. The war ended after five years when the shifters set off a series of bombs that caused rifts between ours and another dimension. Now the rifts drift across the landscape and monsters come out of them. Anyone or anything caught in a rift is irrevocably changed. The shifters had won but continue to count the cost more than a hundred years later.

In the first book of this series, ‘City Of Light’, we were introduced to Tiger. She is déchet (a word that means ‘rubbish’), genetically created by blending DNA of humans and animals to do specific jobs. Most were super-warriors. Tiger is a lure. All were regarded as non-human and throwaways. At the end of the war, the shifters flooded the human’s bunkers with deadly gas, aiming to kill everyone, especially the déchet. Only Tiger survived because, as her role as a lure meant she had to seduce and possibly kill enemy leaders, she had been made immune to known poisons. For the last hundred years, she had lived in the bunker alone, except for the ghosts. These ghosts are very real and two of them, Cat and Bear, often accompany her on forages outside. Everything changed when Tiger rescued a shifter ranger, Jonas, and his niece, Penny, from a pack of vampires. She discovers that Penny is one of a group of children abducted for experimentation. Someone wants to find a way to make the vampires and wraiths immune to daylight. By the end of ‘City Of Light’, some have been rescued but others are still missing. Against her better judgement, she is determined to find them and stop the experiments.

The Winter Halo of the title of this, the second volume in the series, is a pharmaceutical empire run by Rath Winter. Tiger is sure he is behind the abduction of the children and the experiments. The problem is that the Winter Halo building is in the centre of Central, the only city around. Security is tight, the gates close up at dusk and the lights are on all the time. It is the only way to keep out the rapacious vampires. One of Tiger’s abilities is to change her appearance. Part of her make-up is shifter DNA but she cannot do a complete animal change, though she can become smoke in the way that vampires can. Her only hope of getting in to Winter Halo is to change places with one of the guards working there. The only way she can do that is by working with, Nuri, an Earth witch and an outcast from the City. Nuri, she discovers, is an outcast because she, Jonas and Penny survived being caught in a rift. In ‘Winter Halo’, as in volume one, Tiger is able to put all her talents to use, including seduction as a means to gathering information.

Often, second volumes in a series tend to be low key with the major revelations saved for later. This isn’t the case here. From the outset, Tiger is in jeopardy. As a first person narrator, it is probable that she will survive but not necessarily in the same form, after all, two of her allies are ghosts and others, friends and enemies, have been altered by the rifts. Even by the end of this book, there are still children missing and it is not yet clear how their experiences have changed them. If anything, Tiger is too much of a super-woman, though she is not immune from considerable physical damage. The action-filled pace makes this a pleasurable book to read. I look forward to the next instalment.

Pauline Morgan

January 2016

(pub: Signet Books, Random, House, New York, 2016. 339 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN), £ 5.14 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-451-47351-6)

check out websites: www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/ and www.keriarthur.com

 

Category: Books, Fantasy

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