Author: Cathy Clamp
Series: THE SAZI OF LUNA LAKE
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Tor
The soul mates in this novel are long-separated childhood sweethearts who meet up as adults in Luna Lake. Dalvin Adway is an alpha owl shifter and a Wolven agent, and Rachel Washington (whom we met under horrific circumstances in the first novel) is an owl shifter by way of being bitten while she was imprisoned in the snake cave (which was explained in novel one). Rachel has been living with a foster family of owl shifters in Luna Lake for a decade, and she considers them her family, although she does think often of her real family back in Detroit and wonders if they miss her.
Here is my overview of the mythology of the original TALES OF THE SAZI SERIES, taken from my book Fang-tastic Fiction: Twenty-First Century Paranormal Reads (2010): "The Sazi are the shape-shifters of the world. Centuries ago, representatives of each known werespecies came together in an attempt to defend themselves against extermination by humans. They established a council, with representatives taken from the strongest of each species, and pledged to remain hidden from humans. They also established the Wolven, the law enforcement branch of their government. The books tell the soul-mate romance (SMR) stories of various Sazi couples." Here are the titles in the original series: Tor: Hunter’s Moon (2004); Moon’s Web (2005); Captive Moon (2006); Howling Moon (2007); Moon’s Fury (2007); Timeless Moon (2008); Cold Moon Rising (2009); Serpent Moon (2010).
The LUNA LAKE series begins ten years after the events of Serpent Moon. As Clamp explains in her "Afterword" to Forbidden, some of the characters "were just children when the drug that removed the magical shape-shifting abilities of the Sazi—called 'the cure'—caused havoc among Wolven and the Sazi Council." Orphan children who lost their parents to the plague are called "after-plague siblings" (aka AP siblings).
"When the Sazi were attacked, nearly a decade ago..., by family members who had created a magically-charged chemical that 'cured' shape shifters and made them human again, it became a plague, devastating their kind. Exposure to the cure was like a toxin and had killed many and caused madness in others." Survivors have renamed the cure "the plague" because "the thousands of deaths around the globe were spun into a tale of biological terrorism that made every front page…..Thankfully, the sheer scope of the massacres of men, women, and children, and the random nature of the attacks by 'cells of multinational terrorists' helped keep the secret of the Sazi…barely."
The Sazi worked together to recover from the effects of the Plague by gathering together the huge number of orphaned survivors to ensure their safety. Siblings were kept together as much as possible, but in the confusion, some families were split. Communities were set up in isolated areas around the world to house the Sazi survivors, and Luna Lake is one of them.
What's new about these communities is that they became "a melting pot of the injured and desperate," housing Sazi of many different species, not all of whom got along together in the past. Current members of Sazi communities are trying to get a new start in life, but many have secrets—some very dark—that will continue to affect their lives and the lives of their new neighbors.
Several characters who appear in LUNA LAKE are carry-overs from the original SAZI books. For example, Alek Siska (hero of Forbidden) and his brother, Denis, appeared as children in Moon's Web, and Clarissa Evans (heroine of Forbidden) was one of the children kidnapped by the snake, Nasil, in Moon's Fury.
NOVEL 1: Forbidden
Ten years have passed since the war that destroyed the Sazi Council and inflicted a horrible "cure" on thousands of Sazi, robbing them of their ability to shape shift.
Claire is staying with the Williams family, owl shifters who have provided a haven for a large number of AP shifter orphans of different species. As Dani Williams is driving Claire to Luna Lake, they are attacked on the road by a huge, black, snarling…something. The monster is like a black hole with teeth and claws—and it is bigger than their car. When they are forced off the road into a ditch, both are seriously injured. First on the scene is Alek Siska, a local man whose goal is to become a Wolven agent. As he uses CPR to save Claire's life, a spark-filled attraction begins instantly, so by page 30 we know that they must be soul mates.
Alek is a typical high achiever who excels at everything he does, and he always tries to help out his neighbors. Clamp has given Alek two major faults: He frequently acts before he thinks, a habit that is always getting him into trouble with Lenny and which leads him into several TSTL moments that endanger others and hinder the investigation. His other problem is that he is quite self-involved with his own problems. Although he does help others—all the time, in fact—he is not a good listener, so he comes across to some people as emotionally callous and unsympathetic. For example, even though two of his AP siblings have been Omegas for years, Alek has no idea that terrible things have happened to them as a result of their Omega rank, even though they have spoken to him about it over the years. The problem with this dichotomy in Alek's personality is that it doesn't make much sense. A person who goes out of his way to help others doesn't generally just ignore what people say to him or fail to realize what's going on in their lives. I just couldn't get Alek's traits to balance in my mind. He basically comes across as immature and sometimes as an insensitive jerk.
Dani has come home because she has just learned that her younger brother and sister are missing. But within a few days, Claire is shocked when no one seems to remember that the kids disappeared. Some (including their mother) suddenly believe that they are visiting out-of-state relatives and others in town claim no knowledge of the children. What's going on?
Unfortunately, the bad guys are pretty easy to spot because one of them takes an instant dislike to Claire and beats her up a few times while the other just watches. The aggressive slugger is Lenny Gabriel, the town sheriff. Lenny has it in for Alek as well because Alek is squeaky clean, always honorable, and always asking uncomfortable questions, like, "Why aren't you looking for the kids?" and, "Why are you making Claire compete in a dominance challenge when she has a concussion and still-bleeding injuries from the car accident?"
After the dominance challenge, Claire and Alek are thrown together as omegas, the lowest ranking shifters in town. They are assigned dawn-to-dusk menial tasks like cleaning bathrooms, cooking school lunches, and picking up roadside trash. If they are even a minute late for work, they get a beating from Lenny. As they work together, their sexual attraction builds, but Claire can see that the mating urge is stronger for him than it is for her. She is attracted to Alek, but she's not completely sure that he is her true mate.
The novel has a few problematic issues:
> Claire's physical condition: Obviously something is terribly wrong in Luna Lake, but how can Claire investigate when she is ALWAYS limping around barely able to hold her head up? I think that Clamp went a bit heavy on the beatings because even with shifter healing powers, recovery from severe daily beatings takes awhile.
You may wonder if you will understand the mythology if you have never read any of the original SAZI books. Well, I read all of them, but it was so long ago that I remember little about them. (By the way, I recommend that you read Clamp's "Afterword" at the end of Forbidden before you read the story.) I was able to pick up enough information in the narrative of this book to understand that the Sazi are shifters who do not shift until they are at least teenagers. While Claire was imprisoned by the snakes, her captors kept forcing bird shifters to bite her so that she would turn into a bird, but she never did. But then, when a wolf shifter bled on her, she became a wolf shifter herself. So…make what you will of that factoid. If anyone knows where to find more info on basic Sazi mythology, please let me know in a comment to this post or send me an e-mail at email@example.com. I searched all over the Internet for a site that has more information on the Sazi mythology, but found nothing, not even on Clamp's web site. I could go back and read the original books again, but no…my to-read shelf is sagging from the weight of the new books that I still have to read.