Jenna Kernan gets bonus points for using Lakota mythology. As urban fantasy and paranormal romance have become more popular, authors have diversified their interests from vampires. But Native American myths remain sadly underused, possibly because many of their legends are lost to us. Nowadays folklorists work to preserve those myths, but nothing helps more to preserve a culture than getting people interested in it.
That is not to say that Dream Stalker is a cultural artifact. It’s a likeable story, but predictable. Kernan’s system of Halflings is intriguing, and I hope to see her do more world-building in this Lakota influenced setting in later books. Dream Stalker is the story of Michaela Proud, a woman who can see spirits and is on the run from the Ruler of all Ghosts, Nagi. Her attempts to escape him attract the attention of Sebastian, who can turn into a bear.
Michaela, of course, is not just an ordinary human. She’s a little passive for my taste, spending most of the novel following Sebastian and letting him protect her. In the end, I can’t fault her much for that since there wasn’t a better action she could take. She isn’t weak. She decides what she wants and pursues it, not allowing other characters to decide what they think is best for her. But until she began making those decisions, she felt somewhat blank to me.
Sebastian is better realized. He wants love and acceptance, but has been burned by humans before. A previous girlfriend took issue with the fact he could turn into a bear, increasing his wariness to become involved with a non-skinwalker. Of course, as Michaela becomes easier to understand he tends toward silliness as he refuses to trust her. At the point where she finally convinces him of her love, I’d understand it if she smacked him and informed him that if she didn’t love him she’s have left him five chapters ago. (At which point every other character in the book would say, “Duh.”)
Nagi is an intense bad guy. How do you escape someone who can track your soul? How do you fight a spirit? Kernan leaves Dream Stalker open ended, with Nagi plotting another way to gain power. (In fact, it sounded like she might write a story where Nagi gets redeemed by love. I could be wrong.) As I said before, if she continues writing in this setting I would be happy to read more, but I’m not sure that I like the brief passage about Nagi that keeps the story from being totally resolved.
The writing and romance in Dream Stalker are slightly above average. I wouldn’t say there was anything unusual, but the setting was fresh and there weren’t any major flaws. Dream Stalker was pleasant, if not earth-shattering. I hope Kernan aims higher next time, because it feels like she could write a memorable paranormal romance as opposed to a serviceable one.
Native American Michaela Proud thinks her escalating nightmares signal madness. But the truth is far worse. For she is being stalked by the god of death. And when she suffers a brutal attack at his hands, she awakens to find a devastatingly handsome stranger kneeling before her. Whose gentle touch eases her pain…and makes her feel safe.
An Inanoka shape-shifter and healer, Sebastian doesn’t want to feel anything for the beautiful woman he’s rescued. But he can’t abandon her once he discovers she has a spirit wound. As he cares for Michaela, he realizes that he can read her thoughts, emotions… and desire. Sebastian realizes that he’s found his true mate. But will she accept him once she learns his darkest secret?
Read an excerpt here.