A solid read for the male urban-fantasy type. With minimal Goodreads reviews at the time, I’ll go into a little more depth than most my reviews.
The Howling Legion is the second in the “Skinners” series by Marcus Pelegrimas. Skinners refers to the group of people who are trying to fight off the things that go bump in the night and who occasionally skin their prey to make use of the rugged fur. This is book two, so it starts out with our hero, Cole, fight training with Paige, his recruiter and trainer, eight months after the events of the first book. Of course, Cole is also incredibly attracted to her, which becomes clear from his inner dialogue during the fight and their verbal innuendo. It’s an unabashedly modern male perspective that thankfully, Pelegrimas does not linger on for too long. Cole’s on physical leave from his job as a video game designer, but he’s turning in enough remote work to pay the bills. Otherwise Skinners maintain their life with profits from playing the lottery with the group’s prognosticator.
The setting is basically current urban dwelling, with a more unusual version of vampires, werewolves and other things, as Cole discovers during the course of their investigation. The plot is not so much a mystery as much as it is, “find out who is trying to wipe out humanity and stop it.” The vampire-like creatures are also known as Nymar, and are created when a parasitic creature makes its way into a human host. The parasite lives on human blood, and the older it gets, the stronger. Weres, which only use that term in the most limited sense, are divided into Half Breeds and Full Bloods. Half Breeds are created after a were attack, but only survive in a very altered form, and are vulnerable to bullets. Full Bloods are virtually invulnerable to anything except especially crafted metals, so it’s lucky there are only two to four in North America. A great deal of the narrative text deals with Paige teaching Cole the difference between the two, how they are made, hunt, grow and die. It’s helpful for the reader, since the author’s monster version is so unique, but it definitely gets a little exhausting. About the fifteenth time I hear how invulnerable the Full Bloods are, I wonder why Paige would be taking Cole into battle with one with the barest outline of a plan. She does this at least two or three times, with potentially life-altering consequences.
The crux of the plot revolves around one of the Full Bloods realizing how few Skinners there are and how unorganized the Nymar really are, and deciding the human cities are his for the taking. There’s a very minor secondary plot line that surrounds Cole and Paige’s relationship, and the potential for taking it further. Both Cole and Paige end up flirting and potentially pursuing others in the course of the book, so it remains an open-ended issue.
One rather odd aspect of the book is that it occasionally derails into video game discussion. The game Cole helps design is a classic, a multiplayer shooter with a huge following, so he ends up having detailed discussions with his boss or game nuts. On one hand, it’s nice that there is life outside the plot for the hero; on the other hand, it doesn’t do much for the plot and is needlessly complicated for the non-gaming readers (a group, to which, I don’t belong, so my complaint is not out of lack of understanding).
Overall, the pace is very action oriented. The plot is mostly but not always believable within the constraints of Pelegrimas’ world. I particularly take issue with how Paige sets them up by attracting all the Half Breeds in the area and is then surprised by how many show, with the bonus of the Full Blood who created all the Half Breeds. It’s mostly hand-to-hand fighting and doesn’t go into numbers, but I get the feeling that it would take more than 8 months of training with an incomplete weapon for Cole to really hold his ground.
Nonetheless, it’s a reasonably interesting and unique world, so I’ll undoubtedly pick up the third installment from the library.