I am Jan Xu. Mother, ex-teacher, daughter and wolf. My family is all Lang, Mandarin Chinese for "wolf." We live among the human population of Singapore, looking like any ethnic Singapore-born Chinese. We have adopted the culture of our human counterparts, becoming human. Yet in our chests beat the hearts of wolves, our voices the howls of distant hunters.

An urban fantasy by a Singaporean author who may be better-known to you by her real name, Joyce Chng. While A Wolf at the Door had some problems, it was one of the few recent urban fantasies which I've even liked enough to finish. (By "urban fantasy" I mean the modern "hot and/or wisecracking person kicks supernatural ass in modern times," not the Emma Bull/Charles de Lint "magic in the city" books. Damask's book bridges those categories.)

Most urban fantasy, of the "kicks supernatural ass" variety, fails to hold my interest; it feels bland, plasticky, dull. In what I've read, the protagonists rarely have any relationships outside of romances or power dynamics with their vampire clan/werewolf pack/sugar glider flock, the landscapes tend toward generic American cities, and there's nothing going on other than magic spells, politicking among the pack, romance, and fighting: no details of life that make a world feel real.

Damask doesn't follow any of those patterns. Her Singapore feels completely real, and is a character in its own right. The characters have many relationships of different types: familial, pack, friendships. Jan is happily married and has two young daughters/pups. In fact, the best parts of the book involve daily life as a Singaporean werewolf.

Where the book falls down is plot and structure. There are two timelines running in parallel, one in the present and one in the past. They are poorly divided, sometimes marked "past" and sometimes not (and occasionally marked "past" when they're actually in the present). The storyline in the past is underdeveloped, with way too much tell and not enough show, and is not strongly connected to the present storyline. The present storyline is better, but oddly paced.

Five stars for atmosphere, three for character and prose (sometimes awkward, sometimes quite good), two for structure. But like I said: this is the only urban fantasy I've read all year that I actually finished. The world and setting are very, very good. Also, it's only $1.99 on Amazon: Wolf At the Door

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