Embers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1), by Abigail Hilton
Embers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1) is an interesting book. I'm not quite sure how it ended up on my TBR list, because I'm usually not drawn to fantasy with non-human characters. The characters in the world of Wefrivain are shelts, humanoid on top and animal on the bottom. Except for a few details, though, I found Gerard, the honorable new Chief of Police for the High Priestess (who is a humanoid-griffin combination), and Silveo, the corrupt, ruthless and damaged Admiral (humanoid-fox) to be very human on the inside. I had a hard time maintaining the visualization of the characters as described with their fox/griffin lower halves and long, pointy ears (I don't do long pointy ears) so I just imagined them as human to myself, editing that visualization when things like tails or paws were mentioned.
The story is engaging and well-written. Gerard and Silveo, who can't stand each other, are assigned to work together to find the elusive leader of the Resistance. Understanding and trust gradually grows between them (which, going by the reviews of later books, eventually turns into considerably more) as they face danger and track down clues. I enjoyed their interactions and seeing their characters unfold through the story.
I found a few things besides the half-animal appearance of the characters a little difficult, particularly the fairly bleak nature of the world and the fact that sentient beings hunt and eat other sentient beings.
The book ends abruptly; it's the first part of a serial, and the reason given for cutting the story into smaller parts is to accomodate the illustrations without making the ebook file too big. So be warned that this isn't a complete story; this installment doesn't even have its own complete story arc.
Later installments of the Guild of the Cowry Catchers veer into definite not-my-thing territory, so I won't be reading on. It's a good, well-written story; not continuing is just a matter of my own personal preferences. Also be aware that Guild of the Cowry Catchers is very much for adults (not a problem for me, but it appears that other readers have been taken by surprise, not noticing the author's very direct warning to that effect). I would suggest before starting that you read the descriptions and reviews of all the books to decide if it's for you. If you do decide to go for it, I would recommend buying the individual installments to get the beautiful illustrations (which aren't included in the omnibus edition).
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