Nicky Reed may finally have won the right to be a baby shifter on the police force, but that doesn’t stop his mate, Sam Black, from being awfully protective. While Sam accepts that in human form Nicky is a responsible and independent adult, his nurturing instincts still kick in and he wants to keep Nicky from harm. Still, Nicky is now allowed to be open about his baby shifter status and a part of the drug enforcement team.
Alpha Unit One’s current case is a drug called Nemesis that is causing a lot of deaths. The team isn’t getting very far with their investigation, something those against baby shifters in dangerous jobs is attributing to their role on the team. As they dig further into the case, things begin to get increasingly dangerous as they learn who is behind the drug and why. Now as they all face danger, Nicky, Sam, and the rest of the team must fight to protect the streets and keep themselves alive.
Nemesis is the second book in Chris T. Kat’s Alpha Unit One series and continues the story of Nicky and Sam and their team. While you could probably jump in here, the background on the role of baby shifters and small animal shifters, as well as the start of the relationship between the men, comes in the first book so starting there may be a help. Just to catch up new folks, the premise here is that in addition to shifters who move between human and adult animal form, there are also “baby shifters” who switch between human and baby shifter form. In Nicky’s case, he shifts into about a 3-month old snow leopard cub. In shifted form, Nicky takes on a more childlike demeanor, but as a human, he is fully adult. There is a lot of prejudice against baby shifters and a belief they need to be protected and not take on dangerous jobs. That issue is largely resolved in the first book, but we deal with the aftermath here.
What really drew me to this series is the unique world building with the baby shifters, as well as the discrimination that smaller animal shifters face. I think it is a creative take that I haven’t seen before and it adds an interesting spin to the typical paranormal. It is also fun to see Nicky in his baby form and Kat gives some nice details to show how he thinks and behaves when in a more childlike form. The men have a nice bond and it is clear how much they care for each other. Their dynamic is sweet and I like the progression we have seen in their relationship over the course of the two books.
The main problem I had here is that the book goes too far in its focus on baby shifters. The premise to the series is that baby shifters are totally competent and just like other adult humans in their non-shifted form. However, rather than show us how Nicky is just like any other member of the team, the story constantly is focused on his baby shifter status. Despite being in human form, he seems to always have his baby form close to the surface and be thinking at least partially with his cub brain. The team has two baby shifters and they are a constant focus and the men are frequently negotiating/arguing with their mates about being too protective. I think this is such a clever premise and there are so many interesting ways the baby shifters could be incorporated into the story. For example, there are probably tons of ways a baby shifter might be better than a full grown shifter at sneaking in places. But instead of showing them integrated into the group or how they help the team, the book seems to just address the potential concerns. It just feels like most of the book is focused on this one issue and it made it hard to actually see Nicky as the competent law enforcement officer he is supposed to be, or the equal partner to Sam.
The case here focuses on the team investigating a drug on the streets that is killing people. As with the first book, the investigation feels like more of an afterthought. We do see the team at work here more than in the first book, but the suspense plot is definitely not a major part of the story. The bad guy feels cartoonishly evil in his dialog and the case seems to be more of an excuse to focus on the baby shifter issue than to really show a law enforcement team at work.
Overall, I think this is a really interesting premise and there are some aspects of the book that really work. But I think the story is getting too bogged down on the baby shifter issue at the expense of the relationship building or the law enforcement side. I would like to see Kat take advantage of this interesting premise by really building on this idea, rather than so much focus on the baby shifters and their overprotective mates.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.