Book Review: Inquisitor by R.J. Blain

Inquisitor cover
Cover: Inquisitor by R.J. Blain (Witch and Wolf Series, book 1)

Book: Inquisitor

Series: Witch and Wolf, Book 1

Author: R.J. Blain

Genres: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Action

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fianceé at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder. She has to find the killer or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.

On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.

There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may transform into a quest for vengeance…”

Notes of Interest:

This story is set in modern-day U.S., but Allison is over a century old; she’s a witch. But she’s not just any witch, she’s a werewolf, too. This is why the Inquisition (a group of witches and wolves who serve as a disciplinary, internal affairs type of organization) has accused her of murder. But this is also why she’s so desperate to clear her name and stop whoever really is killing innocent witches and wolves.

Because of the witch and werewolf characters, this story falls into the realms of fantasy and paranormal genres, but it is action-packed with Allison’s high-stakes life on the run as she attempts to change her identity and protect the innocent and those she loves. Her years of experience and solitude have turned her into a “lone wolf” — a wolf without a pack — but she can handle herself and take charge of the hunt like a pro.

I know there are several other witch-and-wolf-themed series out there, and to be honest I have not read them, but this is the first time I’ve encountered a situation where the wolves needed witches to help keep a check on their “inner beasts”. It’s an interesting concept, and one that could lead to either very deep bonds, or very deep rivalries.

What could have made it better for me:

Unfortunately, my first and lasting impression of Allison was not a good one. There’s a couple of possibilities why.

I’m going to fault my admitted bias against bad-ass, action-hero-type characters first. I’m talking about the type of character who gets the job done because of a single-minded focus, but shows very little emotion other than the drive to succeed at his goal. Perhaps the action genre is partly to blame because there are usually no in-depth side-tracks to help the characters feel like anything beyond soldiers fighting the good fight. I like action movies, but I prefer character-driven books. I like taking my time getting to know the characters. So, maybe I would have liked Allison more if the pace had slowed just enough for her to be something more than driven.

However, there is no literary rule that says characters have to be liked by readers to have interesting stories, and her story is interesting. I don’t feel Allison was poorly written. She just doesn’t have enough personality for me. Since I know I have a bias against minimalist characters, I won’t take away brownie points for that.

My only other complaint is minor. Considering the main characters are witches, there wasn’t a lot of magic thrown around. It’s present because it’s relative to shape-shifting, and characters are magically healed, but it’s subtle, except for one scene at the end. I would have liked to see more magic from the witches.

What I liked about it:

In spite of my dislike of dry, soldier-hero archetypes in books, I do like action movies. I liked that this was a very visual read. I felt like I was seeing an action movie in my head. I think it would be a good candidate for transition to an action film script for that reason. The plot is fast-paced, but easy to follow in terms of objectives: don’t get caught while unraveling the clues to find the real killer. That made it feel a bit like a murder mystery, too, but the explosions, guns, and urgent pace between moving and hiding, from one place to another, not knowing who to trust, was what I came away with more than anything else.

The concept of witches and wolves having to work together to balance each others’ power intrigued me, so I found myself wanting to know more about the politics and practicality of how that worked.

The references to Allison’s past were interesting, hearing about how she came to be the unique combination of what she is.

It had a big ending, which is what I expected from this kind of story.

Recommendation:

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It had a few errors that pulled me out of immersion, but the writing was clear and had a good pace. I’m undecided about whether to read any other books in the series because Allison didn’t interest me enough as a leading character to make me want to know more about her current story, although I would love to see more of her history. A prequel might interest me more than a continuation.

If you’re looking for horror genre werewolves or YA genre wizardry, this isn’t it. I can’t think of any particular books I’ve read similar to this one, but if you like urban action and paranormal combinations, you’ll probably enjoy Inquisitor.

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