Water Viper

A Jesse Alexander Novel

Fiction - Fantasy - Urban
478 Pages
Reviewed on 06/04/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers' Favorite

Starfall changed everything, leaving some cities in ruins while survivors in others developed magical abilities. Jesse Alexander, once the pride of her clan, ran away after accidentally choosing to become a woman and is now a respected bodyguard who moonlights as the infamous assassin, Water Viper. A fateful encounter in a sinking Miami leaves her with a pulsing Starfall stone that could burst at any moment and a high bounty on her head. With herself, her secrets, and her friends in danger, Jesse skips town and disappears, retiring to raise horses and work as a courier. A promise forces her to return to her erstwhile home in Charlotte and Jesse finds herself at the centre of a dangerous situation. This could be her chance to right all the wrongs of her past, if she survives.

The post-Starfall world RJ Blain has created is realistic, exciting, and populated with memorable characters. It’s always refreshing to encounter a post-apocalyptic style setting where the government hasn’t fallen apart. The prose is direct and evokes vivid descriptions with a minimum of exposition. In general, I avoid books involving shifters, but Water Viper is one of the few that incorporates them while maintaining a balanced plot and allowing the characters to retain their higher thinking processes. There’s a trick to creating strong female characters and Blain has mastered it. Jesse strikes the perfect balance between physical strength, skill, and vulnerability. Water Viper is the most enjoyable book I’ve read this year, and the latest addition to my list of favourites.

Lit Amri

Water Viper (A Jesse Alexander Novel) by R.J. Blain is set in a post-apocalyptic world where magic has replaced most technology, caused by the first Starfall stone that hit Earth. Jesse Alexander is a third generation shifter of the male-dominated Blade Clan. When she failed to become a man and receive her gift of shifting, the disappointed Jesse left and became a mysterious assassin known as Water Viper. The intriguing story premise, as well as the fascinating and imaginative post-apocalyptic world-building, grabbed my attention right away. Tiger, horse, wolf and even donkey shapeshifters walk the changed Earth, where some collect the Starfall stones for their magic, and rival clans and guilds provide enough chaos for everyone.

The plot is extensive and multifaceted. Jesse is a strong female lead who's easy to root for, yet I feel she’s somewhat repetitive about her failure to become a man and fight with the Blade Clan, her growing detachment with her job, her desire to better her life and whatnot in the beginning chapters. This slightly affected the development of the story for me. On the other hand, the clear-cut prose compensates for this minor flaw and the plot pace picks up as the story progresses. What’s more, Jesse is undeniably an interesting protagonist as readers follow her journey where she sometimes unwillingly invites unwanted attention from others. There are other well-written characters who add enough dynamic to the story as well, and Cleo, a witty mystic for the Lancers’ Alliance, is my favorite. The ending will definitely entice readers to look forward to the next book. Overall, Blain’s Water Viper is a good read.

Ray Simmons

Water Viper by R.J. Blain is my type of novel. Jesse Alexander is my type of hero. Male or female, it doesn't matter. I like a person who can take care of him/herself. I like a person who strives to make things right, even though, yeah, sometimes they do bad things. I also like people who can think under pressure. Jessie was hard not to like, though being an assassin can sometimes put even a guy like me off. But in a world like Earth after Starfall, what’s a girl to do. This is my kind of world in so many ways. It is well thought out. It is brutal. But there is hope for those who are strong and have a particular set of skills. Jessie has those skills.

The writing in Water Viper is great. R.J. Blaine captures the ruggedness of life in a place deprived of the benefits of technology. The plot is realistic, as can be expected in a fantasy, but I would have to say the strongest attribute of this story is the colorful but hard characters. Jessie is the main one, but she is in good company and this actually makes her shine even more. The pace is fast. The action is good and the stakes are high. You can’t ask much more of a great adventure. I look forward to reading more. R.J. Blain is a writer to look out for. Fantasy has been looking for a strong female protagonist like Jessie.