[editor's note: this is the first review in a new segment that we are adding to The Bookshop Blog. Bookshop owners need to know what to recommend to their customers and often do not read all genres. We'll try and help you out with one or two reviews a week covering all genres.]
Pride Mates by Jennifer Ashley
I sat down tonight and pulled out the autographed copy of Pride Mates (Shifters Unbound)that Jennifer Ashley sent me last week. The synopsis on the back cover suggested to me that this story would be your typical romantic urban fantasy, but, my friends, it is far from that. Although the majority of the characters are shifters of some sort, be it wolves or large cats, there is a baseline issue that reaches well past the world of the paranormal. This book is really about predjudice and bigotry and the effects they have on society.
In this new world Jennifer has created, shifters not only exist, but live openly among humans. Unfortunately, mankind, in its infinite lack of good judgement, has decided they are an inferior race. They are essentially treated as animals. These poor people are segregated from society, sent to makeshift schools in decrepit warehouses. They are however permitted to attend college but only at the community level, never universities. They are only allowed to work in minimum wage jobs and never a job where they might be required to “touch” a human. The government keeps careful records to make sure none of the shifters acquire too much money or property. Shifters are forced to live in little sub towns on the outskirts of the city where they are not even afforded simple luxuries like cable television. They are banned from many establishments simply because they are shifters. Now perhaps you’re wondering how the typical business owner could distinguish them from the likes of humans, well it’s because they are forced to wear irremovable collars around their necks.
It saddened me to read this story, but it is a wake up call for all of us. No matter how advanced we become as a society, this world will always find a group to discriminate against. It might be blacks or women, jews or gays, but always someone.
For Jennifer’s die hard fans there is a romantic storyline beneath all the doom and gloom, afterall, when has she ever forgotten the silver lining? Liam, a leader among his clan, falls in love with a human lawyer who happens to be helping a shifter on a case. She is ultimately ostracized for covorting with shifters, but at least not to a tragic end.
All in all, I would say this a terrific “gateway” novel, as I like to call them. A way for someone unfamiliar, or perhaps uncomfortable, with the paranormal genre to ease into the world of urban fantasy. It is full of drama and action, romance and tragedy. Jennifer has captured a reality we are all aware of, but don’t always admit to. Well done, kudos to you Jenn for your courage in bringing this age old story to life.
Two thumbs up for Pride Mates