Review: The Becoming
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Becoming (Anna Strong Chronicles, #1)The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was a fast-paced origin story with a unique mythos. I'd recommend it for fans of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series.

Characters & Voice:
The first thing to strike me about this book was that it was written in present tense. Personally, always find a present tense narrative a bit jarring. It takes me longer to lose myself in the story. That said, it was well done. Just something to bear in mind if you (like me) have a tense preference.

The narrative character was a woman named Anna Strong who becomes a vampire. (That's not a spoiler, it's the main premise of the story.) Anna is a strong, no-nonsense kind of woman who makes her living as a bond enforcement agent partnered with an ex-football player. She spends a lot of time being angry (not too surprising considering all that happens to her) and a lot of time having sex. (Note: the sex scenes are frequent, but not explicit.)
I had some difficulty connecting with Anna at first, mostly because of the way she responded to the attack that turned her into a vampire. She was also a little too lusty for my tastes. When she was puzzling out problems or kicking butt, however, we got along just fine.
This book had a relatively small cast, consisting primarily of Anna, her friend David, and her vampire teacher Avery. There were a few walk-on characters, and a couple others who were mentioned but never existed on the page, but Anna pretty much only interacted with David, Avery, and some bad guys.
Anna's relationship with David, or rather his with her, seemed a little too close for friends or co-workers. David is *very* protective of Anna. So much so he's willing to blow off his own girlfriend to be available for Anna despite her saying she doesn't want his help. I think it's great that Anna has a solid guy friendship, but David's solicitude felt a little more like unrequited love to me. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out.

Language & Mechanics:
There were several places where people said things like "You are vampire," or "what it is to be vampire," and I kept feeling like there was a word missing there. I assume Stein wrote it this way to mirror the way we say "I'm human" as opposed to "I'm a human," but it always sounded a little weird to me.
Aside from that, the language flowed well. Descriptions were detailed enough without dragging on. Anna's internal thoughts and feelings were well described.
One interesting mechanic was the use of mind-to-mind interactions in the book. Stein's vampires could communicate telepathically, reading thoughts, emotions, and memories. This was portrayed though the use of italicized dialog, much as an internal monologue would traditionally appear. For the most part, Stein did a great job utilizing this mechanic for a strong effect. There were only a couple times that it was unclear who was "speaking," or when the main character thought something and then added, "but I hid those thoughts," which was a little confusing.

World Building:
Like many urban fantasies, Stein's book is set in an alternate version of our world. One in which vampires are not only real, but have adapted over the centuries to survive in sunlight. Stein incorporates several well-established myths about vampires while throwing others out the window in favor of her own unique twists. It's always nice to see authors interpret old stories in new ways.
I was a little lost as to the setting at the beginning of the story. I eventually came to learn the book was taking place in southern California, but I was lost in the initial scenes. It's possible some of the scene descriptions would have tipped off a local, but being unfamiliar with that area, it took me a while to get my bearings.

NOTE (including a spoiler): I would not recommend this book to anyone sensitive to the topics of rape or cheating partners.

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