Birthright (Darkest Fear #1) by Cate Tiernan – Review

Darkest Fear

Book Jacket:

Vivi has known the truth about her family – and herself – since she was thirteen. But that doesn’t mean she’s accepted it. Being Haguari isn’t something she feels she’ll ever accept. How can she feel like anything but a freak knowing that it’s in her genes to turn into a jaguar?

Now eighteen, Vivi’s ready to break away from the traditions of her heritage. But all of that changes with the shocking, devastating deaths of her parents and the mysteries left behind. Vivi discovers family she never even knew she had, and a life open with possibility. New friends, new loyalties, and even romance all lay ahead—but so do dangers unlike anything Vivi ever could have imagined.

You can read an excerpt here.


Well, this is not a good book, per se, but it is a reasonably enjoyable bad one. Just think of it like the paranormal YA version of a bad action movie – if you go in with low enough expectations, you can still have fun.

And for me, my expectations were basement level going in, given the painfully generic cover copy – but I just kind of figured, hey, jaguars are at least different than the ever-present werewolves, so why not. And weirdly, though at times this book – and namely the main character, Vivi – irritated the crap out of me, by and large I just didn’t mind reading it. The opening is indeed a bit of a slog in terms of pacing, given Vivi’s emotional wallowing, and yet I also found myself respecting Tiernan for actually attempting to play out an emotionally honest reaction, in terms of Vivi’s struggle to come to terms with her “freak” heritage and her shock and grief after her parents’ murder. I liked how Tiernan allowed Vivi’s reactions to not be pretty, and how she allowed her character to be in shock, and as a result legitimately act in annoyingly stupid ways – and so when Vivi did just that, flinging herself into what could have been a really bad, really dangerous situation in New Orleans, I could on some level just go with it (shock = dumb computed for me), and kind of even appreciate the very aggravation it engendered. And so strangely, Vivi’s ungainly struggles to come to terms with everything, while at times irritating in the extreme, did actually feel kind of real, albeit in an ugly way.

But once the story does shift to New Orleans, the narrative quickly settles down into a much easier, though somewhat shallow, ABC Family type grove, with Vivi getting to know a new circle of friends and family. And while yes, not all that much happens – I mean, there’s cooking, chatting, a party or two – it did just make for light and easy reading, kind of Sisterhood of the Traveling Jaguars style. And of course, this is when the requisite hot love interest shows up, and of course it’s painfully obvious they’ll be perfect for each other, once they finally reveal their SUPER OBVIOUS secrets to each other. Sigh. But at least the story rounds off with a nice bit of action/danger towards the end, which does give the finale a touch of drive. So while no, this story definitely does not break new ground, in any respect – and worse, nothing is ever really concretely answered in terms of the larger question of who killed Vivi’s parents and why – still, for some reason I just found myself perfectly willing to roll with it. So maybe I’m just freakishly tolerant of this particular brand of bad, but for whatever reason I did finish this book easily, and despite some residual annoyance, all in all I just didn’t mind it.

So in the end, it really all comes down to this: this book may be bad, but I’ve read worse. Lots and lots and lots of worse. So while this story may not be great, or terribly original, and it definitely spins its wheels a fair bit, at least it’s perfectly readable. And for a paranormal YA in this day and age, really that’s not doing too badly.

Byrt Grade: B (or, like a 2.4 on the Goodreads scale)

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Xpresso Reads says:

I’m always looking for the next epic paranormal series, and I really had hoped this one would fit the bill so it’s unfortunate that it failed to impress me to such degree. In the end, I was just very, very fed up.

Pretty Little Memoirs says:

When it picks up by the middle, you won’t want to stop until the end.

Kirkus Reviews says:

This lackluster addition to the bloated teen-paranormal-romance genre has nothing new to offer.