August 4, 2015

Review: Frozen in Amber by Phyllis Ames

Frozen in Amber
Author: Phyllis Ames
Genre: Urban Fantasy 
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: DAW Mass Market


Amber Treganis constantly reinvents herself. New clothes, new hairstyle, new car—anything she can do to exert a level of control over her life. What she can't control is her shape-shifting other self: the WerCougar that sinks its claws into her brain during the three nights surrounding the full moon.

Though she is a natural-born shifter from a prominent WerCougar family, Amber has been unwilling to change into her cat form ever since a terrible tragedy cost her the man she loved. And she has little patience with Wers of any species who embrace their otherness more than their humanity. She focuses on her life as a defense attorney in Mt. Hood, and stays out of Wer politics.

But after a blurry night of hunting, Amber begins to notice changes in her transformation. When she hears rumors of research to discover a treatment for shifting, she suspects she may have been unknowingly given the experimental therapy.

With the help of Adler, a WerEagle active in community politics, Amber tries to hunt down the truth about this cure, while staying off the radar of the FBI, which tracks and manages Wer communities in secret.

But Amber doesn't realize how much she depends on her Wer sense until, one by one, they begin to fade. And Amber is left increasingly ill—and increasingly human. Can shifter who is losing her abilities survive for long in either human or Wer society?

Frozen in Amber is a fantastic urban fantasy novel that centers on our main character - Amber - who is also a WerCougar. After a terrible tragedy that happened several years before, Amber only shifts into her other form when absolutely necessary. She places all of her time, energy, and focus into her human life as a lawyer. During one of the rare occasions when Amber shifts into her cougar form, she has terrifying glimpses of her memory from that night. Things were very different than normal. Amber was being hunted by humans, and she remembers a sharp pain followed by her body being paralyzed and being hurt by hands grabbing at her. After hearing that one of her firm's clients has developed a possible Wer cure, Amber begins to piece together the mysteries of that night in the woods - and comes to the conclusion that she was targeted and given this treatment without her knowledge. Teaming up with Adler, a WerEagle, Amber goes on a mission to learn more about this so-called cure - all while staying off the FBI's radar. As time passes, Amber begins to lose more and more of her Wer abilities and senses, causing her to realize just how much she actually relies on them. Not only are her Wer attributes disappearing, but Amber is becoming more ill each day along with turning more human as well. Will Amber and Adler be able to figure out what this cure really is before it's too late? Does Amber hate her Wer self enough to let the treatment turn her completely human? 

It's been a really long time since I've read any books about shifters. I was a bit wary of this book before reading it - I've never been a huge fan of shifter fiction. Don't get me wrong, I like to read it - but I prefer other paranormal beings to shifters and tend to gravitate towards those kinds of books. I'm glad that I decided to give this book a shot, because it was nothing short of amazing. You'd think it would be hard to slip inside a world where there are all types of Wer creatures hiding among humans - but somehow that's precisely what the author managed to accomplish. I found myself transported into Amber's world from the very beginning of the book and I didn't emerge until after I had read the final words. There's something about the author's writing style that made it so easy to fall into this alternate world. The story had vivid imagery and incredibly detailed descriptions that seriously brought this world - and novel - to life. I could easily close my eyes and see myself alongside Amber as she experiences everything in the book. There was another aspect to the writing that I can't quite put my finger on - I don't know how to describe it. All I can say is that the fast pace of the story coupled with the author's intricate writing style made this book feel so natural to read. It felt like it flowed naturally - not hurrying along, although there was lots going on and the pace was fast. There's just something about it that immediately caused me to integrate myself into the story and it all felt so amazingly natural. That's some serious talent - if you can create a world full of paranormal creatures and then have the reader just slip inside of it without really knowing that it happened. 

The writing style was definitely a huge part of my experience with the book, maybe even more so than the plot itself. I think the author could have written the weirdest science fiction/dystopian novel ever - and I would have happily immersed myself inside of that world without even knowing it was happening. Another major aspect of the book and writing was the point of view that it's told in. It's written in the first person from Amber's perspective - and I honestly don't think it could have been done any better. I sound like a broken record when I talk about the importance point of view and my belief that first person is almost always the best choice. The reader gets to know the narrator on such a deep and personal level this way, which only heightens the realism of the characters and the book itself. I loved getting to experience the everything that happens through Amber's perspective. We also get a peek inside of the main character that is normally inaccessible to us - we learn so much about them, from their hopes and dreams to their fears and weaknesses, emotions, memories, and so much more. I loved getting to watch Amber's character change and grow throughout the book, and being able to see it happen from her own perspective was fascinating.

The plot of the book was pretty original - as far as I know. It was something new to me, but I'm not a huge reader of the genre - so I don't know if this has been done before or not. The idea of a treatment that had the power to change shifters back into human form permanently was intriguing and I wanted to know as much about it as I could. Along with this aspect of the story comes the underlying topics such as ethics, being able to choose who you are/want to be, and lots of political concepts too. I loved that there was a deeper level to the novel - the main story line would have been great on it's own, but the addition of these more serious topics that apply to us as a society created a whole new tangent that makes the reader stop and ponder things over a bit. The plot was enjoyable and I was reading as fast as I could to see what was going to happen next and what was going to become of Amber and this cure. The author blends several genres to create a riveting novel that I couldn't stop reading until I finished. Once I was in Amber's world - I wasn't coming back out until I read the final words. I very highly recommend this book to fans of shifter novels and urban fantasy - as well as those who enjoy fantasy, paranormal fiction, action, adventure, and some suspense!

Phyllis Ames loves tramping through the forests of the Pacific Northwest with a camera and binoculars. Her most treasured moments are catching sight and photos of elusive white-tailed deer, bear cubs, coyotes, and cougars. She is more afraid of things that go bump in the night than the shadowy depths of forest trails. 

 *A huge thank you to the wonderful people at DAW for sending me a copy of the book for review!*


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