On a camping trip near her home in North Dakota, Sarah Ross is lured into the woods early one morning by a child’s cry for help. Since her friend Amber’s eight-year-old cousin went missing from the Wakina Reservation, how can she not respond? As she plunges through the forest, following the sound, she comes to a clearing where stands a run-down, abandoned house. Certain that she will find the child inside, she enters. Slowly, she climbs the stairs and finds no child, but a hideous, translucent creature that tries to force its ghostly self into her very skin. Sarah, somehow, is able to repel the spirit.
Sarah hastens from the house and on her way back to the campsite, she runs into a man who is walking in the woods. Seeing she has been hurt, he offers to help her back to her friends. While they walk, he tries to find out what happened to her. Then, when he touches her arm, some kind of electricity is generated between them along with a euphoria that Sarah has never before experienced. Evan is a land developer and tells Sarah that he has just purchased the property where they walk. Sarah feels she should keep the incident at the house to herself so she doesn’t mention anything. She was born with a heightened ability to feel others’ emotions – an empath. The weird thing? She cannot read Evan’s emotions. At all.
Amber’s mother, Paulette, knows what Sarah saw was a skinwalker. They are people who practice black magic and whose spirits can leave their bodies and travel. They search for souls to steal. And they are looking for Sarah. But why? And why does she feel this elation, this bliss, when she and Evan touch? And the power – the raw power they seem to build together.
Why have these skinwalkers come to Sarah’s town? Who is the strange, evil-looking man who seems to be stalking Sarah? Why is she being called an “Indigo Child?” What is the truth about Evan and why he is in North Dakota?
This is a paranormal story with a Native American twist. But does it pan out? Yes and no. Of course, the paranormal genre is still super hot. There seems to be different themes that come out as we go along; vampires, werewolves, angels and demons being the most popular. The skinwalker idea is a fresh take for sure. It has the additional appeal here of being a tale that originates from those first inhabitants here in the US. There have got to be thousands of characters in Native American folklore from hundreds of different groups that could be pulled into contemporary writing. Then to pair those characters with fantasy writing? Awesome.
The downside, for me, was that even with this new idea, it’s the same story that we’ve already heard (though with electrifying [almost literally] sex). The relationship between Sarah and Evan happens too quickly to be believable, especially considering all the other action going on (the missing child, the skinwalkers, the unexplained connection between Sarah and Evan, the creepy stranger she keeps seeing). Why would she think Evan is okay when he seems to be stalking her? He shows up wherever she is, and she just goes with it. Plus, Sarah has questions. She would consider and wonder about things, but then seem to ignore these thoughts in the next breath. I felt like I was skimming the surface of the story, never reaching the depths that I wanted to – like there was a hurry to get to the “good part” without properly establishing the characters, background information and the build-up. The bones are there, certainly, but I need more meat on those bones.
Another commonplace YA saw is to have the main character decide that they are going to do what they want, damn the consequences. This, of course, is a plot device that can be used to great advantage, but it can be frustrating for the reader when it feels like the only reason that an action took place was because the author needed it to, not because it was a logical move by the character. For example, while all these horrible sightings and attacks are going on, and Sarah knows she is at risk, she gives the old speech “I’m just going to live my life…” which you know means that she going to do the opposite of what she should do and put herself into danger. It reminds me a little of slasher movies when the audience knows that the character should not go into the basement, but they do it anyway.
This was a nice effort that left me somewhat unsatisfied.
3 of 5 Stars (Based on Ink and Page’s Rating System)
Genres: New Adult Fantasy Paranormal Romance
Ages: Other than the sex, 14 and up (reader, use your best judgment)
You might want to know: There are some heavy-duty descriptive sex scenes.
Stealing Breath by Joanne Brothwell was published March 8, 2012 by Crescent Moon Press. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review.