Saturday, August 08, 2009

Book Review: Turnskin by Nicole Kimberling

Forbidden love, it seems, is a favorite theme of the authors published by Blind Eye Books. Last year I reviewed Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale, also a forbidden love tale, and the similarities are rather striking. Unlike Wicked Gentlemen, however, Turnskin avoids the religious overtones and instead focuses on people from very different walks of life in a world that divides species not just by their genetic origins, but by family as well—think Romeo and Juliet, if you will. Turnskin introduces us to Tom Fletcher, a Shifter living in the boonies who has aspirations to become a playwright and actor. But then he strikes up a less-than-casual relationship with a local police officer and finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place: his officer friend is more than who he says he is, and the more Tom gets involved, the more he finds himself caught in something he can’t escape. Turnskin’s forbidden love story is both flawed and well-drawn. Tom’s personality fits well with his small town roots, and it is his personality that makes him such a sympathetic figure, even if some of the things he does are relatively stupid. Shifter culture, while not fully developed, complicates the nature of the world, because it divides human from Shifter in much the same way as race divides human from human. And, as some of you know, I like these sorts of things within science fiction and fantasy. A thorough, or at least novel attempt at examining the human condition is what the genres should be about, even on a minor level. Turnskin places some focus on its human/Other issues, which serves to make this story more than just one about a forbidden love. Still, the human/Other issues are left somewhat undeveloped, and instead the love story takes center stage. Perhaps in future novels this will change. The biggest flaw in Turnskin is in its pacing. By the time you reach the climax, there are little more than twenty pages to solve what amounts to a monumental problem. The result is that the ending feels not only rushed, but incredibly weak, leaving one to wondering why the characters didn’t try that in the first place if it was going to be so easy. I also found certain sections of the book, particularly the intimate ones, to be unnecessarily “erotic.” This may be a personal preference, however, and not something that would bother more casual readers of these kinds of books. Overall, Turnskin is a good read, despite its flaws. While it may not be a complex piece, in comparison to other novels dealing with similar versions of the forbidden love theme, it does manage to weave not only a good love story, but an entertaining foray into a world one step to the left of our own. If you’d like to learn more about Turnskin, check out its page at Blind Eye Books. You can find out more about Nicole Kimberling at her website. Turnskin can also be found on Amazon or possibly at your local bookstore.