family heir book coverReviewed by Leigh Adamkiewicz

Kelley Venator thought she was done with the family business. Her family was one of a dozen clans who quietly protected the rights of the things that go bump in the night. Then the world got solid proof that the supernatural was real and her family was stuck dealing with bureaucrats and adjusting to the new normal.

Kelley thought divorcing Troy and going back to school had gotten her out. But then death, promotions, and the FBI all showed up on her door step. Something has been killing people. Something never seen before. And it is suddenly Kelley’s job to track the beast down.

I liked Family Heir. It is fun and fast paced, with identifiable characters that you really root for. But the rough edges in the narrative made it hard to get to the good stuff.

We are introduced to Kelley and her world through FBI agent Brent. I loathed Brent from the start. Admittedly, that wasn’t Brent’s fault. Every time we shifted from Kelley’s perspective to Brent’s, the entire style of narration switched. The chapters kept switching from a first person narration to a third person narration. Every time I started getting comfortable in Kelley’s head, Brent would come along and slam me back into third person. It was aggravating.

And there were some other problems as well. This is Sara M Drake’s first novel, and you can really feel that in the first 10 chapters of the book. Kelley’s version of events has a woman-trying-to-have-it-all focus. It feels unnatural, as though Kelley’s motivations were altered to fit current literary tastes. And our first introduction to the main characters feels like a refresher course in stock characters.

But the further I read, the more I found myself truly enjoying this book.

The world building is rock solid, and it’s easy to get sucked into it. The problems between Kelley and Troy feel real. For the most part there are no good guys or bad guys. Most of the conflict comes from how the characters react to their changing worlds.

Most interesting of all, it played with my expectations. That’s pretty rare nowadays. Most books have started to have the feel of a running bingo game about them. But Family Heir kept me guessing.

As the team uncovered what the killer mystery beast was, I expected the story to become a variation of the “Humans are the Real Monsters” trope. Instead, it turned into a crime drama. I expected Troy and Brent to bicker over who was the best fit for Kelley. They didn’t. They went on an epic spiritual side quest with an animal spirit guide. Technicolor corvids were not what they seemed, and Bigfoot has a better internet connection than you do.

There are more than a few rough corners in this book, but they even out into a unique story by the end. This book is hard to love, but you end up doing it anyway. It’s the perfect book for those long October nights.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Leigh is a fearless writer who never met a genre, subject, or format she didn’t like. She has written professionally for the past six years and enjoys biking, exploring odd corners of Northeast Ohio, and discovering those good books she hasn’t read yet.