Who’s Afraid? – Maria Lewis
Published by Hachette New Zealand, Jan 2016
Tommi Grayson’s never exactly been a normal girl. Bright blue hair, a mysterious past and barely controlled rage issues have a way of making a woman stand out. Yet she’s never come close to guessing who she really is…
Who’s Afraid? is the debut novel of New Zealand-born, Australia-based Maria Lewis. Described as a “fresh, witty, compelling tale with a pop culture edge”, this is a book that will see you turning your light off way past your bedtime, then leaping onto your bed for fear that something is lurking underneath. Fantasy isn’t my usual genre, but this is a different type of fantasy. It’s got an urban, supernatural vibe, mixed with elements of Maori culture, pop culture and contemporary life.
After the tragic death of her mother, Tommi Grayson leaves Scotland on a mission to track down her father in New Zealand, where she discovers that her heritage is much more complicated than her mother led her to believe. Her father was the head of a powerful Maori werewolf pack, and his family want to recruit her as one of their own.
Tommi escapes the pack, and returns to Scotland, accompanied by a Counsellor provided to her by an ancient governing body; Lorcan’s job is to help Tommi control and adjust to her werewolf self, making sure she transitions safely each full moon.
- I couldn’t help comparing blue-haired Tommi to another blue-haired heroine I love, but as the story and characters developed, I lost the comparison. Tommi initially comes across as tough, unemotional and staunch, but we see a more mature and emotional side of her as the tale unfolds. The rest of the characters were strongly written; it’s a small cast, but a mostly likable one, and the relationships between them were also very believable.
- Lewis’ writing style developed and matured along with Tommi’s character; I initially felt it was a bit stilted, but there was a chattiness to her writing that made it very easy to read and it moved along at a delectable pace.
- The supernatural world that Tommi suddenly found herself part of was cleverly and casually unfolded rather than explained via a long-winded monologue by Lorcan or any other character (one aspect of fantasy fiction that usually puts me off)
- There were gory fight scenes, a handful of bedroom encounters, and an attempted assault, all of which were much more explicit than I expected, but not difficult to read. There were a few expletives, so if swearing and hanky-panky in a novel isn’t your thing, this book might not be for you.
- There were surprises along the way (when an author kills off some of the most loveable characters, that’s when you sit up and take notice), including the way the book ended – but that only indicates that there are more Tommi Grayson tales to come.