While writing The Portal & the Panther, I started to wonder if anyone else was writing YA books about shapeshifters. That’s how I came across Leopard Moon by Jeannette Battista. I went on to read the first three books in the series, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Best news: Leopard Moon is a free book.
Kess is a young wereleopard on the run. At first, the reader doesn’t know who she’s running from or why, only that she hasn’t been able to stay in one place for quite some time. Gradually we learn that it’s her own brother, Sekhmet, she’s running from, also a wereleopard.
In the beginning of the book, Kess runs from the West Coast back to the East, winding up in a small mountain town in Western North Carolina. She gets a job as a waitress and finds a room at an old-fashioned boarding house.
Before long, Kess catches the eye of Cormac. She doesn’t know it yet, but Cormac is also a werecreature; in his case, his whole family is composed of werewolves.
The story goes on from there, with Kess and Cormac’s relationship gradually evolving, Sekhmet continuing to chase her, and Kess trying to figure out how to carve out some stability in her life.
There were a few things I really liked about Leopard Moon and the subsequent books in the series. First — and maybe this is because this book is technically more “new adult” than “young adult” — I like that Kess and Cormac don’t have it easy in their relationship. Real-world relationships are messy and filled with ups-and-downs, and it always bugs me when I read a YA book in which Prince Charming sweeps the Heroine off her feet and everyone lives happily ever after.
It’s not like that with this werecouple. Kess has some pretty serious baggage to overcome, and Cormac has his work cut out for him to figure out how to get close to Kess without frightening her away.
It was also a nice touch that Kess is a “cat person” and Cormac is a “dog person.” You know what I mean by this. (If you don’t, you should totally check out the video below.)
Kess wants her space, her privacy. She also wants to take things at her own pace. Cormac is affable and warm-hearted, always prepared to give (and receive) more affection. He has to learn how to work with Kess’ temperament if their relationship is going to function.
Besides the messy relationship between Kess and Cormac, the other theme running throughout this book is — brace yourself for this — sexual abuse. This is another “real-world issue” that is rarely addressed in YA and NA genres, yet it’s something that affects millions of people. As the book goes on (and this isn’t a spoiler because it comes out quite early in the story), the reader learns that the reason Kess is running from Sekhmet is that he has an unhealthy fixation on her and tried to rape her. That’s also one of the reasons Kess has such a hard time letting down her guard with Cormac. Kess’ PTSD over the incident with Sekhmet is something she has to work through and process throughout the course of the book (or really books, since the theme of abuse continues into future novels).
…and the Bad
If I had a complaint about this book, it would be that Sekhmet is a little “too” evil. I like my bad guys a little nuanced, and Sekhmet really isn’t. He’s fixated on Kess, he’s fixated on power, and that’s it.
In later books, I feel that Sekhmet gets fleshed out a little more and he becomes, if not likable, then at least mildly sympathetic. He ends up getting painted as someone more mentally ill, maybe bipolar, than “evil” per se. But in book one, you don’t see much of that.
Throughout the series, Battista struggles here and there with typos and tense changes, but for the most part I didn’t find it a big distraction. I’m willing to forgive indie authors their typos as long as the story’s good, and this one certainly is.
Look, I’m generous. I wouldn’t review a book at all if I didn’t think it was worth the read. And I’m not stingy with the stars, so…
0.5-star off for typos and other errors
Otherwise: 4.5 stars