Jack Clausen is a Creek man transplanted to Minnesota from his native Oklahoma. After a trip back to his old stomping grounds to write a travel article, Jack ends up on a crashing plane with Emma (a magically gifted flight attendant) and Old Coyote.
After mysteriously surviving the plane crash, Jack is soon caught up in the schemes of Coyote an the other First People of North America.
I liked the way this story was executed. Jack’s character is important enough to warrant the attention of the powers present in the book. At the same time, he is not so powerful or wise as to make his struggles meaningless or unrelatable. The Animal People do a good job of combining “regular guy” qualities and ancient wisdom and power, like the best myths of most peoples. The “fate” aspect of the book is definitely present – something that I usually don’t care for. However, it’s not heavy handed, nor does it result in a feeling of inevitability or fatalism. Instead, it manifests as a tendency toward coincidence, and a drawing together of the major actors in the story. I found it a very tasteful way to handle it.
The romance subplot is important, but doesn’t overpower the rest of the plot. The progression of the relationship is very believable, as well. The sex scenes are pretty hot – fans of Merriam’s earlier work will notice they are considerably more graphic than his usual “cut-to-curtains-blowing-in-the-windows approach.
There are questions left unanswered by this book, and I liked that. It would have been too pat to answer ever question that was brought up, and would have weakened the overall impact of the story. Whose theories about the story’s major problem were correct? What will the overall impact be of the way the problem was resolved? These things are left open ended, or totally unaddressed, inviting the reader to think about them for himself. They also leave room for Merriam to expand on this setting and these characters, without being locked in to an obvious next step. (In fact, I believe I recognize at least a couple of characters as having already appeared in one of the stories in the collection Shimmers and Shadows.)
Unfortunately, my eBook copy of the story suffered some copy editing issues. Nothing that prevented me from enjoying the story, but a few that broke the flow of my reading.
In summary, I definitely recommend this book for fans of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and folklore based tales.
Rating: A solid 3.5 stars.