Leopard’s Heart, by Kimberly A. Rogers (2015)
In this Earth-based present-day urban fantasy, three species co-exist: Humans, Elves, and Therians. There are also assorted nasties held back by a mysterious barrier.
Humans know about the Elves, but they don’t know about the Therians, who work incognito for their protection. Therians are shape-shifters with three forms: humanoid, animal, and half-beast. Each Therian is born into one beast family and has only one beast form.
If this intrigues you and you haven’t read the prequel, Tiger’s Paw, don’t read any farther because there’s a spoiler to the prequel below. I highly recommend reading the prequel so you’ll be oriented in this complex world before starting book one, Leopard’s Heart.
I found Tiger’s Paw a bit of a hard read, partially because it’s from the point of view of General Baran (the tiger) and he’s, as the impudent leopard he’s assigned to work with says, “Tall, Dark, and oh-so-Serious.” The major difficulty in reading was simply absorbing the way the story world works: the hierarchies and relationships among the different species of beasts, and how they work unseen among the humans.
Now, if you’re still here, prepare to learn something about how Tiger’s Paw ends.
Raina (the leopard on the cover of Leopard’s Heart) is in an arranged marriage to Baran. Raina’s also half-Elven, exposing her to prejudice and attacks from those who want to keep the Therian race pure.
The novel is about the two of them working together to thwart a plot to expose the Therian race to the Humans. A subversive element among the Therians, the Fringe, is behind this and is also stirring up hate crimes against half-Elven Therians.
Among the unfamiliar circumstances, though, we find two strong and likeable characters in an arranged marriage: a classic romance situation that we’re comfortable with. We may not be able to relate to shape-shifters, but we can relate to hearts. And to danger and the need to stop the villains.
The story is mostly told in the first person, from either Raina’s or Baran’s point of view. I wish the chapters opened with the narrating character’s name, for easier reading, but it only took a few paragraphs to find out each time.
Leopard’s Heart is a compelling read, clean fiction with a Christian theme (the Therian Way is a code of honour based on faith in Yeshua). It’s violent in places, with more fighting and blood than I’m used to, but nothing is gratuitous. Still, by the end I was a little battle-weary.
I won a copy of Leopard’s Heart in a giveaway, and bought Tiger’s Paw so I could start at the beginning. I like Raina and Baran, and I’m glad to have come this far with them in the series.
Kimberley A. Rogers is a fantasy author and Masters in Religious Education student. For more about the author and her books, visit her website, So You Want to Write Christian Fantasy?