Sometimes being unique is not a requirement for writing a good story. Jaye Wells’ Red-Headed Stepchild is not unique. In fact, it’s cookie-cutter urban fantasy with all the clichés. But, Wells uses all the same old urban fantasy elements to crank out a decent story.
Sabina Kane, a half-vampire / half-mage assassin for the vampire governing body, has been raised by her maternal grandmother after the ill-starred match of her vampire mother and mage father leaves her an orphan. Sabina is just as sassy, pretty, tough, etc. as every other heroine in every other paranormal urban fantasy, so for the first half of the book I was cringing as Wells stayed right on course for what we all knew was coming.
There is Comic Relief in the form of a demon sent to kill her and a nymph/faerie who is supposed to spy on her. There is Romance of a sort between Sabina and two of the male characters. Finally, there is the Unexpected Betrayal and the Dire Situation that threatens everything that Sabina cares about and believes in. This is all well-trod ground in the urban fantasy realm.
But during the second half of the book I noticed that Jaye Wells really knows how to write exhilarating action sequences and interesting character interactions (which get better in the second half). What I liked best was that she was able to make me feel the friction and tension between the different conflicted groups. It was kind of like reading a spy-thriller novel except that the characters are paranormal instead of highly trained CIA operatives.
I will read the sequel to Red-Headed Stepchild. Not because there’s anything really original about this book or its characters, but because Wells makes the well-worn exciting and sometimes that’s enough to make a book worth reading. Wells knows how to take you for a ride.