Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Once Bitten" by Kalayna Price

In Kalayna Price’s novel, Once Bitten, Kita Nekai is a calico cat shape shifter who is on the run from her clan. She is supposed to be the clan’s future leader, but she (of course) does not want the responsibility. According to clan law, women are not allowed to travel to the real world (but they can apparently lead said clan!) so, Kita being the main female character in a sexist world escapes there. This leads one to believe that the clan exists in some sort of “other dimension” that Kita and the other shifters call “Firth.” The only way to travel to and from this world is during the full moon (shifters in this book remind me of werewolves meaning that they can shift into only one type of animal but, it doesn't have to be a wolf.) Kita’s clan is not going to let her go lightly; she is being followed by “hunters.” Hunters are the men who are allowed to live in the human world and their “job” for the clan is to capture those who escape, and bring them back to Firth.

Kita is trying to avoid these hunters, when she inexplicably runs into a vampire. The vampire, whose name is Nathaniel, accidentally turns Kita into a vampire. This occurrs when he runs into her while she is fighting off a rogue shifter, which is someone who has been kicked out of Firth. As if she didn’t have enough problems, her old flame, Bobby, from Firth, has found her and wants to take her back to their world. Now, she is stuck with both Nathaniel and Bobby while she tries to avoid hunters, vampires, and a certain wizard judge who has sentenced her to death. This is where the plot comes together; the judge has found that Kita accidentally “marked” a human. (When a human is “marked” they change into a sort of form between forms but not into the animal itself, meaning they are extremely scary and not natural in anyway.) In this form, they are insane and they kill people. The human Kita marked has killed several people in a most horrible way, by raping and torturing them. Since Kita marked him, those deaths are her responsibility. Just as the judge is about to allow demons to eat Kita’s soul, as that is her sentence, Nathaniel steps in with a compromise. If Kita can bring the judge the marked human, dead or alive, then Kita herself can go free. The judge accepts this compromise, and adds a few ultimatums while he's at it, and the quest for the murderer begins.
Now it would seem that things aren’t going very well for Kita; she has to avoid hunters, deal with Nathaniel and Bobby who are both pining for her (surprise, surprise a werewolf and a vampire both want the female character!), and find a marked human that she doesn’t even remember marking within two days or they ALL die. Yes, those "few ultimatums" that were menitioned, well, they mean that Nathaniel and Bobby will also be killed if Kita does not find and bring the human to the judge in two days. On top of all of those problems, Kita also now has an annoying witch following her around. The witch is from a “university” in the other world and Kita is her "final project." The witch is to take notes on everything about Kita and those that she associates with. As you can imagine, this is not only annoying to Kita and her friends but to the reader as well.
All of these characters intrigue (and irritate) the reader through the entire story. Kita is a girl that is very easy to understand and her fight against the sexist world she lives in is very empowering to anyone that is even remotely a feminist. On the other hand, the story has the classic love triangle mixed with the popular fantasy characters, such as vampires and witches, so, it is the type of thing that you feel you have read over and over. What makes this book different is that

1. it is from a shapeshifter's point of view
2. the main girl is not a wimp but does accept the help of her "friends" (begrudgingly of course)
3. while Bobby may be pining after Kita he can't have her as he is married!
4. Nathaniel and the other vampires are REALLY weird and
5. the only vampire who is mysterious and hot is Nathaniel (wait that might not be that different...)

Though you wouldn’t think so, Kita, Bobby, Nathaniel, and Gil (the witch) make a good team. This book was very interesting, and even though this conscientious reader has read several different fantasy novels with the same themes and plots, somehow Kalayna Price manages to make Kita’s race against the clock an intriguing and thrilling ride until the very end. Once Bitten is a wonderful story and I hope that you will pick up a copy to find out what happens to Kita and her friends. (My personal copy was downloaded for free on my Kindle.)

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a mentor text I could use to teach "point of view" and "author's purpose!" My young adolescent students find vampires, and their ilk, fascinating and the theme of fitting in or standing alone might lead to some lively discussion in a lit circle!I'm always looking for engaging material for discerning readers. Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions!