Spencer Crain is an 18 year old high school senior. He's bright but he is barely getting by in school due to his lack of attendance. In Spencer's defense he has a lot going on as he tries to care for and support his nearly catatonic, mentally ill mother. Spencer's father has been long gone and his only male role model is his "Uncle Roarke". Roarke was a good friend of Spencer's father and has helped guide him as he has grown up.
One day while Spencer sits in study hall Roarke shows up to tell him that the father that he never knew has died. Oh and that Spencer is a Coyote shifter and he needs to speak for his father at the funeral. Spencer's world is immediately thrown into chaos. He is now part of a world filled with magic and tricksters and politics he does not understand. Spencer also finds out that he is not as alone as he always thought he was as he has half siblings. Most of them are not very nice.
The world building in this book was complex and there was a lot going on in this story. There were a lot of characters and a complicated plot line. I often felt as confused as Spencer did while trying to figure out who was who and what role they played in the story. I found myself having to go back and read some sections over again to try to understand what was happening.
While I found this frustrating I may have been able to work around this. I usually always give the first book in an urban fantasy series a lot of leeway because sometimes the most complicated worlds end up being good in future books. This book though had a major flaw for me that I could not get past.
My issue was the relationship between Spencer and his "Uncle Roarke". We first meet Roarke when he's picking Spencer up from study hall. It's explained that he is in his 50's and has been a pivotal male role model for Spencer. A few scenes later Spencer and Roake are having sex together. No! No, no, no! I could get over the age difference (although there was an ick factor to that) but I could not get over the pseudo incest. While they were not blood related "Uncle Roarke" had always been in Spencer's life in a fictive kin role. That coupled with the imbalance of power (Roarke is apparently a very old and powerful king while Spencer is a high school senior) took this story to a place I could not follow. Well at least not happily.
Between the confusing world building and this relationship issue I did not enjoy this book at all. I would like to note that I also have an issue with the fact that neither the author nor the publisher felt the need to make a warning note regarding the pseudo incest. While I believe an author has the right to write about anything they want I think that we readers deserve a warning on controversial topics such as non-consensual sex, incest, sexual kinks, etc so that we can make an informed choice in what we choose to read. With a simple warning the author/publisher could have saved themselves a bad review and saved this reader from wanting to wash my eyes out with bleach.
Always have an ace up your sleeve.
If con games were taught in high school, Spencer Crain would be on the honor roll. As it is, he’ll be riding the edge of failure to graduation next month. Then Spence gets the news that his long-gone father is not only dead, but was a Coyote, one of three clans of tricksters in the City.
With a near-catatonic mother on his hands, Spence couldn’t care less about the Coyotes’ ongoing feud with the Phouka and the Kitsune—until it lands on his doorstep. Suddenly he’s thrown headfirst into a dangerous world he knows next-to-nothing about. His only guide is Rourke, dashing King of the Phouka, plus a growing pack of half-siblings, a god, and Fate herself.
As Spence embarks on a journey to learn the Coyote’s creed, the truth about his heritage, and how to handle his growing attraction to Rourke, he wonders when his life turned from TV sitcom to real-life danger zone. And what price must he pay to survive the next roll of the dice…
Warning: Contains PG-13 rated violence, R-rated language and X-rated hotel scenes. Meta-humor, pop-culture humor, utter disregard for the 4th wall abound.