Title: Frost Moon
SubTitle: Book One, The Skin Dancer Series
Author: Anthony Francis
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Pub Date: 04/06/2010
Category: ADULT: Urban Fantasy
This is a gritty urban fantasy, well written and never dull, that surprised, horrified and delighted me. It’s an unusual and unpredictable story with a cast of great characters that range from warped and twisted to cute and bouncy and include bear, deer, cat and the usual wolf shifters as well a Christian vampire, a blind witch and a couple of FBI agents.
In an alternate Atlanta where magic is practiced openly, where shapeshifters party at the urban clubs and vampires rule the southern nights like gangsters, where demure witches sip coffees at the local cafes and mysterious creatures command the dark caverns beneath the city, Dakota Frost’s talents are coveted by all: She’s the best magical tattoo artist in the southeast: a SkinDancer, able to bring her amazing tats to life. When a serial killer begins stalking Atlanta‘s tattooed elite, the police and Feds seek Dakota’s help. Can she find the killer in the dark fringe of the city’s magical Edgeworld? What kind of enemies and allies will she attract among the powerful outcasts and tormented loners, who see her as a threat, a seduction, an unexpected champion . . . or as delicious prey.
Dakota Frost, magical tattooist, lives and works on the edge between the magical and ordinary world. A request for assistance by the Feds and a commission for a tattoo for a werewolf send her deep into the magical world and into the midst of a murder mystery. Dakota is savvy and streetwise but human, with all its vulnerabilities which makes her very real. She has magic in her tattoos but not enough to protect her from a vicious assault.
Had Dakota not been someone with a conscience and values, her SM vampire friends might have put me off early on. As it was, the book almost overstepped my capacity to tolerate violence, especially that of the torturous kind. There were only a couple of really nasty scenes, anymore and I would have put the book down, but that’s a reflection of me rather than the book.
One good outcome of these scenes was that Dakota’s painful experiences changed her for the better. Her respect for and appreciation of the role of the police grew, as did her understanding of how her actions contributed to the events, and her empathy for the Edgeworlders. The nightmares and other issues that beatings leave victims with are part of the story, as is Dakota’s determination not to allow herself to become a victim again. But as the book realistically shows, that isn’t an easy thing to achieve.
I loved the concept of a skin dancer, and the descriptions of the magical tattoos were fantastic. I also liked how we actually see the process of Dakota coming into her full power; this makes it believable. In many books, this kind of thing just happens in some vague way that we’re expected to buy, but here we see Dakota figure out the thing that allows her to ‘make the leap’.
The ending was very satisfying and with a delightful little touch to offset the previous darkness.
As a reflection of my enjoyment of the book I’d give it 3 stars, but if I take away my preference for less nasty stuff, it’s definitely a 4, and if you like your urban fantasy dark and gritty, you’d probably give it a 5. So, I’m giving it 4 stars.
It’s not for teens – too violent, some of the characters are too kinky and there’s too much swearing in it.