Pros: Fun couple; lots of action
Cons: So much that’s identical to other series
Rating: 3 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Tiger Magic is several volumes into Jennifer Ashley’s “Shifters Unbound” series. Full disclosure: I haven’t read the previous books. (If you’re now tempted to leave me a chastising comment, read my series books rant first for why this review can still be useful.) I found that I could hold on pretty easily despite not having read those books. In part this is definitely down to author skill, so kudos to her. However it’s also partially down to the striking similarities between this and other shifter romance series.
But first, to backtrack a little. I’ll give you the back-of-book description this time:
He doesn’t have a name. He doesn’t have a clan. The humans who held him prisoner for forty years have taken them away. He knew nothing but captivity until nearly a year ago, when he was released into the light. Now Tiger lives in the Austin Shiftertown, where he struggles to belong and searches for an identity.
Carly Randal thinks her fabulous life is complete—until her car breaks down on the side of the road, and a wild-looking Shifter is the only one to help her. Tiger takes one look at Carly and knows instantly—she will be his mate. As Carly is drawn into his Shifter world, she risks everything she has for that forbidden something she still wants: passionate love.
The Shifters Unbound series, at least as seen through Tiger Magic, bears a striking similarity to Lora Leigh’s Breed novels. Where Leigh’s shifters were created via scientific tampering, Ashley’s were created by magical tampering (for the most part). Where Leigh’s shifters have the mating heat, Ashley’s have the mating frenzy. Both authors’ shifters live apart and struggle with integrating into human society. Both include a wide variety of animals amongst their shifters. While I’m not sure that this is the case for all of Ashley’s books, certainly in this one she plays with nearly the same instant-one-true-mate concept that Leigh does. Both also have a heavy focus on pregnancy, child-bearing, and sacrosanct children. While it’s inevitable with all the shifter romance books out there that they’ll become repetitive, this is a remarkably similar reading experience. Maybe a smaller page-count devoted to frenzied sex, and less omg-we’ll-die in keeping mates apart, but still.
I like Carly Randal; I think she has enough personality to ease her just over the line from yet another standard sassy woman. Tiger is close to being the standard, set-apart wild shifter that even the shifters can’t handle. However, those characters usually come in two extremes: wooden caveman, and constantly-snarling raging asshole, whereas Tiger combines some of these aspects in a weird way that makes him more likeable and interesting.
The bad guys are flat, there purely for the reader to hate. Carly’s fiance, for example, is exactly what you’d expect in a story where Carly has to be free to shack up with another man, and no more. Wealthy and well-connected, check; cheating bastard, check; whiny weasel, check; seemingly perfect until Carly has her moment of realization that makes everything that came before suddenly look bad, check. I’d talk about the other ‘bad’ characters, but I don’t want to give plot points away.
On the good side, Carly and Tiger together have very nice chemistry. There’s plenty of action, and a wonderfully gripping climax (pun intended). However, one of the reveals at the end just didn’t add up for me; it was convenient for the character Ashley wants to paint Tiger as, but didn’t make sense with other details. (Again, sorry for being cryptic but I don’t want to spoil the book.)
Taken wholly separately from Leigh’s Breed novels, Ashley’s Tiger Magic is good. Fun characters, active plot, plenty of danger and sex. If you’re looking for something a bit new and different, though, this isn’t the place to find it.