Full disclosure: I read this book because I know the author through our shared editor, not because I had any real zest for yet another scrappy first-person urban fantasy heroine. I was expecting decent writing, but I wasn’t expecting to really LIKE the book.
Secret’s biology reads like something out of a RP chat room in the mid-90’s (Glenshadow’s Tavern, represent!) – half vampire, half werewolf. She’s a supernatural bounty hunter. She’s a young, pretty woman in a gritty urban setting. She’s a smart-ass (which I really enjoyed) and she can kick your ass.
Not only does Sierra Dean’s writing save her concept, it completely overshot my expectations and pulled me right into the story. I think first-person narration, almost the default for this genre, and most often meant to create an instant relationship between the protagonist and the reader, can actually work the opposite way. Done poorly, it buffers the reader from really feeling the book with distracting commentary, or my least favourite trope, the narrator refusing to see what everyone else does. Secret avoids that. She’s knee-deep in the action all the time, and most of her witty asides keep pace with that. I also really enjoyed that while Secret is sarcastic, she’s not needlessly antagonistic.
The few places I felt like the book faltered were the introduction and interactions with Secret’s love interests, but Dean managed to make even the rough spots true to Secret’s character, and again, her strong writing pulled me out of those minor issues and kept me eagerly reading until I hit the last page, when I might actually have been heard to yelp at the cliffhanger ending.
I’ve got the prequel novella, The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters, loaded up to read this weekend, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I loved Sierra Dean’s writing, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better as she goes. Secret McQueen is fun, funny, and well worth spending some time with. Something Secret This Way Comes was a wonderful surprise, and I’m glad I took a chance on it.