Review: Darkest Fear by Cate Tiernan

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Darkest Fear by Cate TiernanDarkest Fear by Cate Tiernan
Series: Birthright #1
Published by Simon Pulse on January 7, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
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three-half-stars

Vivi’s animal instincts are her legacy—and maybe her downfall—in this start to a romantic fantasy series that will appeal to fans of The Nine Lives of Chloe King.

Vivi has known the truth about her family—and herself—since she was thirteen. But that doesn’t mean she’s accepted it. Being Haguari isn’t something she feels she’ll ever accept. How can she feel like anything but a freak knowing that it’s in her genes to turn into a jaguar?

Now eighteen, Vivi’s ready to break away from the traditions of her heritage. But all of that changes with the shocking, devastating deaths of her parents and the mysteries left behind. Vivi discovers family she never even knew she had, and a life open with possibility. New friends, new loyalties, and even romance all lay ahead—but so do dangers unlike anything Vivi ever could have imagined.

Though I ended up really enjoying the one other Cate Tiernan novel I’ve read after a rocky beginning, I wasn’t sure what to make of Darkest Fear and I wasn’t really in a hurry to read it. Still, when it came up as an option on YABC, I thought I’d give it a chance, especially since it had a couple of decent reviews from friends. My hesitance was that paranormal novels are very hit or miss for me, and mostly miss. While occasionally venturing into some YA tropes, I loved Darkest Fear for its diversity and awesome jaguar shape shifting.

The heroine Vivi is a haguari, which means that she, like her parents can shapeshift into a jaguar. Unlike them, though, she sees this as a curse. All she wants is a normal life. This is trope number one, but I did really like the way Tiernan handled this. Rather than feeling like the stereotypical girl who resents being all powerful and gorgeous, her reasons are explained. During Vivi’s journey, she realizes that her resentment of her heritage is likely driven by not knowing there were people outside of her family with these powers. Basically, she’s lonely and has to be keep this secret from her best friend. Also, her parents shifting in front of her on her thirteenth birthday terrified her.

In the first chapter, her parents are brutally murdered on Vivi’s birthday (this girl must hate her birthday), their hearts cut out. This leaves Vivi even more alone surrounded by mysteries, like the apparent existence of another aunt her mother never mentioned. Curious and wanting to escape her hometown, with its memories of her parents’ deaths and an attempted break-in Vivi sets out on a road trip to New Orleans to find her Aunt Donella. She arrives to find that her Aunt is dead, but that her cousin Mateo and his girlfriend Aly live in her awesome old house with a bunch of friends who are also haguari.

This cast of characters is really well-drawn, and I found myself really liking the whole bunch, even the ones I wasn’t sold on at first. They’re diverse of race and of sexuality. Vivi herself is Brazilian, while her cousin is half-Brazilian/half-Irish. The entire cast has various backgrounds and I love love love how much more this reflects the world I grew up in than the average YA book. On top of that, among her friends in New Orleans there’s a gay couple and a lesbian couple. Her best friend Jennifer is gay as well. The best thing about all the diversity is that no one is token or stereotypical; they’re just themselves. For all that, I did make a face at the book when Vivi described herself as foreign and exotic-looking, but otherwise I thought the treatment of diversity was wonderful.

My favorite aspects of the story are those of her coming to terms with herself and making friends. Vivi’s taken a gap year, though she was planning to head across the country to college before her parents died. She moves to New Orleans spontaneously, with no desire to return to her hometown. She gets her first job. This is a new adult experience, though with paranormal trappings added on. She’s trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to do.

The paranormal plot line is fun, but a bit less fulfilling. There’s not as much resolution to Darkest Fear as I expect from the first installment of a series. I’m a big proponent of there being a completed plot arc to each book within the series and a larger arc running through the whole thing. Darkest Fear raises a number of different considerations: the murders, Vivi’s boss, the family book, Jennifer’s issues at college. None of these are resolved and the ending just kind of feels like jerking to a stop. I did really like, however, the way Tiernan handled the narration of Vivi as a jaguar.

So far as the romance goes, I’m torn. There are two options on the table right now, both absurdly handsome. Her boss, Rafael, who’s got the typical paranormal love interest brooding thing going as well as the “I’m drawn to you but we can’t be together” thing. Then there’s Aly’s brother, Alex, who’s a playboy. I could potentially be okay with either one, but there’s not been enough development on either front for me to commit to a ship at this juncture. There is, however, one really steamy scene. Tiernan is excellent at those.

Darkest Fear ranks pretty highly against the other paranormal novels I’ve read, and I really wish I had the sequel right now, because, as I said, there’s a lot left open and I must know what happens next.

Favorite Quote:

There was no funeral—our kind didn’t have funerals. You know why? Because one didn’t call attention to the weakness of the dead. One left them behind and moved on, so they could be scavenged by other animals in a harsher, less Disney version of the circle of life.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

jaguar gif

2 responses to “Review: Darkest Fear by Cate Tiernan”

  1. Hooray, you liked it! I hoped you would, so am I forgiven for leading you astray with Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea? (Kinda kidding, I know it’s nothing.)

    Essentially, you hit on every single point of the book I loved and what I wish had been better (like all the loose ends and no sequel in sight because she turned in her manuscript really late). I think I gave it half a star more because jaguars. I’m nothing if not honest!

    Tiernan’s books are why I’m always silently side-eyeing other YA books when they make poor attempts at diversity. They have one token-ish character and meanwhile, Tiernan has all this. I don’t always express it, but yeah.

    Also, WONDERFUL GIF CHOICE. I could watch that big cat roll all day long. Now we can impatiently wait for Darkest Night together.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Hahahaha, YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGIVEN (since I was never mad). :-p

      GUH, at least you apparently know a thing! I’ve been worried the sequel just wouldn’t happen, which would suck because I would like more LGBT+, diverse were-panthers, because how awesome is that?

      I’ve only read one other Tiernan book, but now that both have been successes, I need to read more. I tried the first Sweep, but it had a couple bad editor fails early on and I quit. I’m hoping the omnibuses will be a bit better edited. Do you have any specific Tiernan recs?

      I LOVE THE KITTY. I WANT ONE. Though I don’t think Perseus would be thrilled.

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