Kita Nekai, on the run and the smallest of her shifter clan—a calico cat among lions and tigers—is being hunted. She was expected to accept her role as her father’s successor whether or not her cat was up to the task of leading the clan. She disagreed. Now she’s less than a step ahead of the hunters, bone-tired, cold, and living hand-to-mouth in the city of Haven. And that’s the high point of her day. She’s also drugged, “accidentally” turned into a vampire, and sentenced to death for recklessly creating a rogue shifter who tortures its human prey. She’s got seventy-two hours to find the rogue, evade a city full of hunters, prove she’s not responsible for the rogue, and keep the vampire council from killing her. All while sorting out an apprentice mage, a married ex-boyfriend shifter-hunter, and the vampire who made her.
Alright, its Sunday morning and I’m sleepy so I am borrowing the synopsis for Once Bitten by Kalayna Price from Goodreads, which is also the synopsis from the back of the book. I picked it up because I really enjoy Price’s Alex Craft series, and I loved the concept of a shifter that turns into a house cat. It was a good choice, because I really enjoyed the book.
Kita is a well-written, relate-able character, and I was completely invested in her story. Kita was both brave and cowardly – she was brave enough to leave the only home she ever knew and enter the completely unknown human world all by herself, but also cowardly because she did it to escape her responsibilities and run away from heartbreak. She had the guts to stand up to the judge who wanted to execute her, but the whole time she investigated the rogue shifter she planned to leave the friends who helped her as soon as possible. Kita wanted to help her friends, but not get attached to anyone. It was an interesting character trait – you rooted for Kita, but also hoped she would appreciate what was around her and make the right decision. I love characters who aren’t perfect, and Kita fit the bill. Plus she could turn into a calico cat!! Sure turning into a wolf or tiger is probably more impressive, but there’s something to be said for being able to transform into a small, adorable kitty. When Kita was turned into a vampire and lost her ability to shift (which I still hold out hope is temporary) I was genuinely sad and upset.
The other major characters were Nathaniel, old vampire who “accidentally” turned Kita into a vampire and therefore became her master and protector; Bobby, another shifter and lifetime friend of Kita; and Gil, apprentice mage who is following Kita around so she can write a paper about her. They all try to help find the rogue shifter so Kita will not be executed. Nathaniel was the best of the group – he understood Kita best, and whether she liked it or not did what was best for her. He also had a fairly well-written history and his personality was well-developed and easy to understand. Bobby was a bit more shallow and never grew – no matter what, all he did was ask Kita to go back to Firth with him. He spent the novel threatening Nathaniel and attempting to fight over Kita. The male posturing got old very rapidly. Gil was a haughty mage who appeared to care more about her research and potential fame more than anyone’s life, although I suspect she will become more important in future novels.
Price made a unique world-building choice that I am dying to learn more about. Most shifters live in Firth, a place separate from the human world, which can only be accessed once a month during the full moon. Firth was mentioned quite a few times, but never exactly explained. It reminded me a bit of Faerie, connected to the human world but allowed the Fae race to be separate. I have never heard of a world like this for shifters before though. I really really hope Kita and the rest of the team get to travel to Firth at some point so we can learn more about it.
Four stars for this book. It was a fun read and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kita and Nathaniel’s store. Price’s entire world-building was great. She used the Show Don’t Tell method, and she did is exceptionally well. We know this world has shifters who come from a separate world which is ruled by Elders. We know there are vampires and a Vampire Council. And apparently there are also mages and demons, though we know the least about them. There is so much to learn about this world, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Twice Dead.