Welcome, one and all, to this month’s book review. I’ve had some awesome guests on the site for interviews, and way back, that included fellow UK author Nick Stead. I also reviewed his novel Hybrid, which acted as the first in a series of werewolf tales. Now, it’s time to read the second book in the series, Hunted. Did it continue the quality of the first? Let’s find out.
Background: Nick Stead lives in Huddersfield in the UK, and is the author of ‘The Hybrid Series’, which follows the last known werewolf as he tries to make his way through life. Hunted is the second book in the series and was released by Wild Wolf Publishing in 2016. Here, our protagonist Nick has left humanity behind. With nothing left to him but killing, he soon learns that bloodlust comes at a price. To make matters worse, enemies are closing in from all around; Slayers, vampires, and even Death are drawing near. Can Nick survive the onslaught?
The Good: Much as was the case with Hybrid, Hunted gives us a werewolf tale that has its roots firmly in the old school curse and bloodshed world of werewolves. Nick is far from the sometimes-fuzzy heroes of Urban Fantasy in terms of his general behaviour. At the same time though, the character does have an internal struggle to deal with which wouldn’t itself feel out of place in a shifter novel were it not that the focus of how it manifests is so brutal.
It’s this internal struggle that makes Nick a complex character. In the previous book, he was dealing with an attack of conscience and trying to figure out how to deal with his new urges. Here, he’s losing the battle. Nick has essentially given in to his more primal needs and is immersing himself in a world of slaughter. Interestingly, this is not entirely born from his wolfish side either, and a great deal of the book is based around the idea that Nick needs to learn to balance out his own will with the wolf’s in order to maintain some semblance of control.
Lady Sarah continues to be a good foil for Nick, with the vampire trying her best to help Nick learn to control his beast. She is also pivotal in bringing some further world building into the tale and in doing so gains some further development herself. This was a welcome addition to the novel as it really helped flesh out the overall arc and split up the bloodier moments.
Throughout the story, Nick is haunted by visions of those that he has killed or abandoned. Those who’ve seen the classics will no doubt recognise this as a trick used in An American Werewolf In London. If you’re going to borrow from any werewolf film, that seems like a good choice to me. This wasn’t just a homage though, as the visions to help illustrate Nick’s mental state. When you throw in that he doesn’t actually believe that these are necessarily anything more than his own subconscious, it really does show that there’s a part of him still fighting not to be the monster that he claims to believe that he is.
The Bad: In terms of a content warning, if the first book was a little much for you, this will be worse. The blood and gore are just as visceral as before, but Nick as a character feels far more brutal this time around and engages in wholesale slaughter throughout. Therein will be the problem for some readers too; without going into detail, if you don’t like your protagonists killing children, this really won’t be for you. This is a point of contention for me as I find it difficult to get behind heroes that kill kids. In this case, it helps that Nick’s tale is a complicated on, and the deaths that occur do not feel avoidable. Choice doesn’t so much come into it, which means that this isn’t a ‘good guy’ making a terrible decision, but rather something that fits the story’s world and the state that the lead is in.
Final View: While similar to Hybrid, Hunted is a very different beast to its predecessor. More brutal, and with different struggles affecting the lead, the book will keep you interested, provide a few shocks, and further build the world in which it’s set.
Final Score: 4 out of 5