TITLE: Frost Moon
AUTHOR: Anthony Francis
PUBLISHER: Bell Bridge Books
YEAR: March 1, 2010
ARC received via NetGalley
SYNOPSIS via GOODREADS:
In an alternate Atlanta where magic is practiced openly, where witches sip coffee at local cafes, shapeshifters party at urban clubs, vampires rule the southern night like gangsters, and mysterious creatures command dark caverns beneath the city, Dakota Frost’s talents are coveted by all. She’s the best magical tattooist in the southeast, a Skindancer, able to bring her amazing tats to life. When a serial killer begins stalking Atlanta’s tattooed elite, the police and the Feds seek Dakota’s help. Can she find the killer on the dark fringe of the city’s Edgeworld? Among its powerful outcasts and tortured loners, what kind of enemies and allies will she attract? Will they see her as an invader, as a seducer, as an unexpected champion … or as delicious prey?
FROST MOON is Book One of the SKINDANCER fantasy series by debut author Anthony Francis. Filled with unforgettable characters, spine-tingling action, kinky rebellion and edgy love, FROST MOON is classic storytelling at its best, and Dakota Frost is an irresistible new star of fantasy fiction.
This book really has me on the fence. I am straddling the divide between three howls or two. By the time I finish writing this review, I hope to have my mind made up so please bear with me.
In reading books in the urban fantasy genre, I tend to look for two things: interesting world-building and good characters. Frost Moon does have some appealing world-building – the alternate reality called “Edgeworld” where the vampires, shifters, and magicians reign supreme was definitely interesting. I admit that I felt a little fuzzy on the details of this world but it was interesting nonetheless. And Dakota’s ability to ink magical tattoos was probably the single most unique thing about this story. In this world, magical tattooing is an art form and Dakota is the best in the business. Francis is strongest when writing the tattooing scenes and the detail and skill involved in creating a magical tattoo. He also has a terrific scene where Dakota “skin dances,” showing off the beauty and the power of her tattoos through the movement of her body and her designs. It is precisely these scenes that attracted me to the book but I felt the strong premise and the interesting world weren’t really enough to completely ignore the things that bothered me.
While Dakota herself is a somewhat compelling character – loyal, smart, brave but vulnerable — I can say without hesitation that I had very little interest in the supporting cast. An ex-girlfriend who is now a queen vampire after only being a vamp for a year or two? And her vamp name is “Lady Saffron”? A multitude of possible love interests including a martial arts instructor, a magician’s assistant, a rogue Nazi werewolf called “Wulf,” and a “man in black” complete with dark sunglasses and hidden helicopters…these all felt cliché. Then there is an orphan were-tiger, Cinnamon, who had potential as a strong character but for some reason I could not connect with her. I also became annoyed by the few times Cinnamon used a homosexual slur in front of Dakota, an openly bisexual woman, who does not call her on it. The only supporting character I was curious about was Jinx, a powerful witch who consults Dakota on her tattoo designs. There was so much unfulfilled potential in Dakota and Jinx’s friendship and the development of Jinx’s gifts and limitations but not enough time was spent with her. Maybe this is something explored in book two.
Frost Moon also had a number of subplots that detracted from the main plot – the search for a serial killer. It got to the point where looking for a serial killer seemed to be an afterthought. Francis manages to tie things together at the end a little too neatly, but not very satisfyingly. The reveal of the villain felt too theatrical.
In the end, while I loved the original premise of Frost Moon, I think it missed too many marks for me to wholly recommend it. I had such high hopes given all of the positive reviews the book has received and because I love the magical tattoo aspect of the story. This wasn’t enough for me. What it comes down to is whether or not I would read the next book in the series. The answer is no. Frost Moon left me a bit cold.