Taken
by Lilith Saintcrow 
(Harl. Nocture #106, $5.25, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-373-61853-8
*****
Sophie Harris is the first to say she's spent her life doing what other people want her to do.  At a young age, she married Mark Harris, who was supposed to be her Prince Charming.  Several years later, Sophie's a battered woman, and acts the part.  A year ago, she finally got up the nerve to leave him, with the help of her one and only friend, Lucy.

Lilith Saintcrow's Taken opens with a  night at the club that unravels the fine threads of Sophie's admittedly pathetic new life. Lucy insists that Sophie needs a night out. Sophie, whose funds are always low at best, doesn't want to spend the money or the time, and especially doesn't want her solitude interrupted by a jostling crowd. However, she lets Lucy talk her into it —and by the end of the night, Lucy is a body in an alley with a gaping hole in her throat and Sophie seems to be the hostage of a very aggressive group of strangers who look to be living out of a van.

Zach's Family (yep, it's capitalized) has been on the run for years, since their home, their alpha, and their shaman went up in flames. When a vampire attacks a woman in the alley of a bar where the five of them had been lifting wallets (hard to earn an honest living when you're on the run, after all), their latest alpha, Zach's younger brother Kyle, is one of the casualties. Zach, now the alpha, a role he'd avoided for a long time, manages to get his cousin and twin siblings out —and snags a woman he's pretty sure has latent shaman powers.

Zach and the others are shapeshifters, the Family is Carcajou (a quick Google search tells me that "carcajou" is a French term for "wolverine"), who are known for their fierceness and their inability to quit once they get started being violent; this makes them the most effective when it comes to killing vampires.  Unfortunately, without a shaman, whose powers are vaguely referred to in the book but are nonetheless necessary for keeping the beast within a shapeshifter at bay, Zach's Family are unwelcome by any other Tribe.  Being on the run, being without a powerful alpha, and being without a shaman has made Zach, and Kyle before him, desperate.  He makes no apologies for the kidnapping, but convincing Sophie to willingly stay with the Carcajou proves difficult, especially given her past.

When Sophie's building burns down all but around her ears, it becomes clear that she has nowhere else to go. To Zach, it's also clear that the vampires have been after her all along. Now that the tables are turned, Sophie needs Zach's protection as much as he needs her shamanic abilities (whatever those may be). The question is, can Sophie make a clean enough getaway to put all of the pieces of her horrible past behind her?

What a tough relationship-maker; though from reading others of her titles, it seems Saintcrow prefers those. Luckily, she handles them fabulously (and thankfully, in this case, without Stockholm syndrome); the reader will feel every twist and turn in Sophie’s brain and grind their teeth along with Zach as he tries to stumble through the mess his life has become. As is her habit and her forte, Taken is fast-paced, terrifying, and exhilarating. Saintcrow displays her fine knack with prose; some of her phrases will stick with you for an entire chapter and never fail to bring a very clear image into your head.  Though I love her Society, Dante Valentine, and Jill Kismet series, it was a nice change to read something that stood apart –though with all of the unanswered questions about the Carcajou and shamans, one wonders if there are more Nocturnes in Ms. Saintcrow's future.

--Sarrah Knight


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