Kathleen Peacock’s debut novel is set in a dystopian world in which those afflicted with a virus known as Lupine Syndrome – in other words, werewolves – are being rounded up and sent to rehabilitation camps, where friends and neighbours regard each other with distrust, and an underground militia called the Trackers has risen to power.
Mac, Amy, Kyle, and James were once close friends, but Amy’s violent murder has changed everything. Amy’s grandfather is a well-known senator, and her death – one in a string of apparent werewolf attacks – becomes a political rallying point. When the Trackers come to town at the senator’s invitation, Kyle and James are suddenly on opposing sides of the conflict, and Mac finds herself in the middle of a battle in which nothing is as it seems.
The first in a trilogy, Hemlock fits nicely into the YA urban-fantasy genre. While not the most subtle of mysteries – there is a limited cast of characters and only so many roles to fill – the story moves swiftly, with enough twists to keep the reader turning pages. Peacock isn’t afraid to explore the darker, more violent aspects of humanity, especially the depths to which people will sink in order to gain power. The requisite teen love triangle is not forced or overpowering, but fits the well-defined characters.
One can only hope that Peacock continues on her current bold trajectory, allowing her characters and their relationships to develop hand in hand with the deeper political undercurrent she has already set in place, rather than focusing on the surface-level drama and romance often found in books of this genre.