Book Review: May Day

May Day (Seekers #1)
Josie Jaffrey

May Day (Seekers #1) was published on July 9th, 2020. In addition to receiving a physical ARC of this urban fantasy from the author, but as always, all thoughts are my own.

Beyond what is told in the synopsis, I do talk briefly about the romantic relationships of the protagonist, Jack, and a certain important detail that is not necessarily covered in the content warnings, but one that I think readers should be aware of. 

Content Warnings listed at the end of the book: Violence/murder, blood/gore (blood drinking, description of injuries, dead bodies, forensic investigation, autopsy), brief mention of suicide, blood drinking as sexual/pleasurable behavior, some swearing (up to and including “fuck”), use of ‘date rape’ drugs including rohypnol (non-sexual context), predatory sexual behaviour*(including stalking, sexual assault and rape, physical abuse of women – general and for sexual pleasure – and use/abuse of prostitutes mentioned), misogyny from side characters, brief mention of miscarriage. 

*The predatory sexual behavior CW is listed as “discussed on-page but not seen”, but there is one example of physical abuse towards our main character that is very much on-page. Additionally, there are a couple of instances that could be interpreted as the main character being forced/coerced into sexual intimacy (on-page). I talk about this aspect of the story in my review below. 


Synopsis:

If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one. 

It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest members of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake. 

When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does. 

To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die. 

Body bags on standby. 

Review:

Josie Jaffrey has created a universe spanning fifteen books and short stories, and May Day is the latest addition. With a cast of Silvers (vampires), sexual tension, investigations, possible corruption, and endless secrets, Josie Jaffrey keeps her readers at the edge of their seats, striking a fulfilling balance between world rules and descriptions and keeping the plot moving.

Before getting into May Day, however, the short story prequel is worth mentioning. Killian’s Dead (also sent to me by the author) takes place twenty years before the events in May Day, but it provides a lot of context and background for the novel that shouldn’t be missed. It’s not necessarily required in order to understand or enjoy the plot of May Day, but Josie Jaffrey’s skill for short story writing gleams in Killian’s Dead, and besides being an emotional precursor to the novel that follows, it’s a fun and thrilling read.

May Day begins on that very day – May 1st – as our main character (and narrator) Jack and her fellow Seekers (special Silver investigators) are on the lookout for a tragic event; or really, a Silver (vampire) who is likely going to take advantage of a large human crowd to do something that would endanger their secret existence. Such an event does happen, and this sets up the plot for the entire book – a plot woven with more secrets, uncertainties, and new and broken alliances.

To expand on this, Josie Jaffrey pulls off what any sort of successfully sequential, thrilling fantasy should do. The main crime and mystery is explored throughout the novel, but the tracks and avenues down which the investigation takes the characters and thus, the reader, are just as strong and feel just as important – nothing feels off track. By the end the reader is left with more questions and perhaps even some theories of their own; an excellent – though angsty – way to end the first book in a series.

Since there is a first person narrator – who is also our protagonist – we discover details about Silver life and potential organizational conspiracies along with her, which makes every step of the way just as exciting as the last. Also incorporated into the storyline are details about the Silvers and their world. In some explanatory paragraphs, it feels like Jack is almost talking to the reader (again, this is a first person story) but the quick pace allows these sections to be wholly interesting rather than monotonous.

In addition to what is described in the synopsis, interpersonal relationships take a large part of the spotlight within this novel. While I think at times the dialogue between Jack and Cam (Jack’s investigative partner and friend) is a little cheesy and surface level, their relationship is convincing, and one of my favorite parts about the book. In addition to this, Jack and Drake have that enemies-to-lovers type of tension, all the while Jack is trying to start and maintain a romantic relationship with Tabby, who is a doctor and Silver coroner. The former relationship is steamy, sexy, and potentially dangerous, while the latter is more sweet, realistic, and safe. This juxtaposition adds more tension to the overall story, but doesn’t diminish the importance of the other plot points.

While this book is quite recommendable to fantasy fans, readers who love vampire-centric stories, and more rough-around-the-edges characters, there are quite a few content/trigger warnings to be mindful of. The author has listed them in the back (which I have copied above), and while she seems to have covered her bases quite well, there is a detail that drives the “romance” plotline which could use more of a disclaimer. Like in other vampiric, “creature” fantasy stories, there is the idea of possessing a romantic partner. In May Day this manifests in the two individuals having the scent of each other, and while this connection does require both individuals to be willing participants in order to form, it still creates a possessive bond between the two that sort of obligates them to give in to physical desires. The Silver characters are not moral – or at least don’t have the reputation or requirement to be moral individuals, so it makes sense in their world, but for a reader outside of it, this particular element could potentially be stomach-churning.

With this in mind, May Day is an immersive, can’t-put-down, shocking start to a series; what will happen next is quite a bit uncertain, but knowing Josie Jaffrey’s writing and these characters, it will be wild.

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