The World of the Lupi by Eileen Wilks
1 Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks
In her Lupi series, Eileen Wilks has created a complex urban fantasy setting in which magic exists, some people have paranormal “gifts”, and many fantasy races exist including her Lupi, a species that looks human, but whose males can transform into wolves. (There is no half human, half wolf form.) Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the setting. Take the Lupi for example.
The world knows that Lupi exist. There have been historical purges in which nations have attempted to exterminate them. In the U.S., until a recent Supreme Court ruling required law enforcement to treat Lupi in human form as if they are human (meaning they have basic human rights), they were forcibly registered and had numbers tattooed on their foreheads. (Since Lupi can regrow lost limbs, tattooing them on their arms proved ineffective.) Even the liberal state of California had X-Squads on their police forces to track down and kill Lupi suspected of having broken the law. The prejudice against them continues to be extreme.
The Lupi have responded by developing a secretive culture based on clans. The daughters of Lupi can be members of the clan, but their mothers rarely are. Since the men are rather infertile, they have developed a culture that frowns upon marriage and encourages jealousy-free promiscuity—something which many human women appear happy to participate in. The men tend to be quite charming and there is always an appeal in the forbidden. But it is also a culture that does not fit well with the contemporary romance story (even an urban fantasy romance) so Wilks had to come up with a way of dealing with the promiscuity issues, which I will address later in this review.
The plot of the novel is a murder investigation in which protagonist, Lily Yu, who has a gift that permits her to detect magic in others and makes her immune to magic, is charged with learning who killed a man near a controversial nightclub at which the most famous Lupi in the country, Rule Turner, hangs out with his Lupi friends. The victim was killed by a wolf and Rule is currently “dating” the victim’s wife. He is the obvious suspect for the crime. And yet, Yu also thinks that the crime is a little too convenient and that it is possible Turner is being set up, probably to create enough of an anti-Lupi outcry to prevent passage of a bill that would give Lupi and other supernatural creatures U.S. citizenship.
So, she begins her investigation and is disturbed by the very strong and immediate (and out of character) sense of attraction she feels for Rule. On one level this is the necessary romance that urban fantasy romances have, but it is also an important plot point as the series develops. For the Old One whom the Lupi worship as a goddess sometimes intervenes in their lives by forging a mating bond between Lupi and individuals that the Old One deems the Lupi need in order to further her plans in a millennia old war with another Old One.
This sort of mating bond is common in urban fantasy literature and a bit disturbing to the modern reader in that it clearly impacts the ability of a man or woman to consent to sex. Not all women afflicted with this bond can handle it and many go insane or commit suicide. So, it’s a bit troubling that Wilks chose this vehicle to bind her romantic partners together, but the bond does clearly have a major impact on the resolution of the story. It also allows Rule to be a “faithful” partner as he is now incapable of having sexual relations with anyone besides Lily.
Most of the tale revolves around both the investigation of the murder (and later a second murder) and attempts to stop the bad guys from fulfilling their ends. But there is so very much more going on as well. Lily’s Chinese grandmother proves to have strange connections with the paranormal world and a pretty amazing paranormal power of her own. Rule’s friend, a clanless Lupi named, Cullen, is the only sorcerer currently living on the planet—someone who can see magic and manipulate it directly instead of through the sorts of spells all the other practitioners use. The introduction of a "chosen” (Lily) has major implications for the Lupi and especially Rule Turner’s clan. Even the fact that Lily, who is a control freak by nature, is in a situation she absolutely cannot control adds a very believable tension to the story.
Overall, it’s a very well thought out novel with the sort of excellent worldbuilding that can launch a great series.