Hey guys, be warned, there be spoilers ahead!
Here’s a rough outline of what’s going on, and the characters involved. Feel free to comment and criticize.
We open on Heather, a vampire assassin, in a car with her partner-in-crime, Damien who is a were-bear). They are preparing to go into a mobile home in the Southern California desert. Both are armed and ready for trouble, though they are not expecting any. They enter the mobile home, and see several were-rats who run the meth lab.
Damien, clearly the more important of the two (Heather is more of a silent bodyguard type). There’s a brief conversation between the leader of the rats, Randy, and Damien. Damien is only interested in Randy giving Damien money, though Randy seems to want to discuss a concern he has and previously contacted Damien about, but he is very reluctant to discuss it with Heather in the room.
Before the conversation can continue, one of the other rats fires a crossbow at Heather, but as she is a vampire and can move with super-human speed, he misses, and the scene quickly devolves into a massacre of the were-rats. But one of them has a weapon that blinds Heather when she looks at it. It’s up to Damien to kill the rats as Heather cannot fight if she can’t see. The aftermath of the fight leaves Damien frustrated that he had to kill all three by himself, implying this is very unusual. But his demeanor changes when she tells him she was blinded by the weapon. The two take pictures of the people they killed, and elect not to pursue the one (Sarah) who ran away at the start of the fight. When they leave, they take the weapon, which seems to be an axe made out of something called Meteor Steel, with them, Damien implying that he knows someone that can trace where it came from.
We cut to some backstory, describing the world as it exists today. Most of California is under the province of a group of female magic-users known as the Coven, but their influence is limited to that area. We learn that there are packs of werewolves and wererats who attempt to live normal lives in tight-knit groups all over, But Damien is not of the same type of beastman as they are- he does not age, and was created by a sorcerer.
We also learn that in decades previous there was a united effort to purge both sorcerers and vampires from North America, which lasted years, and that Damien was a prime vampire hunter back then. The coven used the situation to their advantage and secured their territory by enlisting werewolves and wererats in the fight, also wiping out their (male) rivals in the process. The scene ends with a flashback as Heather is being turned by a vampire as Damien busts in and kills her girlfriend/sire. It is unclear at this point why Damien did not also kill Heather.
We return to the present day, with Heather and Damien preparing for a meeting with a member of the Coven. It’s a few days after the incident at the meth lab, and Damien is telling Heather that he wants to give her more responsibility and autonomy in their work, which we learn is primarily enforcers/hit men for the Coven. Heather has always felt constrained, and though the two fo them have a very caring, equal friendship, he holds all the cards as far as their professional duties are concerned. This is due to the fact that she is the last vampire, and she knows that if he hadn’t been such an effective vampire hunter and asset to the coven, they never would have agreed to let her exist if she were not fully under his control. While she trusts him and loves him (it’s a fag/hag relationship) she has always felt that the power dynamics between them were uncomfortable, and while he never made her feel inferior because of it, she’s always hated that she can only exist because he allows it. So this feels good for her, as she’s getting some autonomy and being seen as more than Damien’s pet.
They proceed to the meeting (With Catherine, a member of the Coven), but they are told to wait by Catherine’s bodyguards, who are clearly werewolves. The head werewolf is stern and betrays no emotion, but he does give some homophobic remarks at Damien’s expense. Damien laughs it off and Heather bares her teeth at him. Heather remembers other incidents in both of their careers- both are gay (and were before they were turned) and even in northern California they both have to deal with derisive stereotypes and aggressions. Damien says that he should stop trying to be clever and just call him a faggot and save everyone some time. Catherine emerges from her office at this point and invites Damien in, and he motions for Heather to follow.
Once in the office, there is a brief conversation about the impropriety of Heather’s presence at the meeting, but Damien says that it’s time she started having more responsibility instead of being at his side all the time. Despite herself, Heather finds Catherine very attractive. Catherine says that it will be difficult to make the rest of the coven feel comfortable with a vampire doing work unsupervised, but Heather says that there was a time when female sorcerers were not trusted either. (Damien had previously coached her to butt in at this point, as he feels it’s important that the Coven start seeing her as an asset and not his minion.) Catherine is skeptical, but not worried, and so the matter is dropped.
Damien then recounts the events of the meth lab incident and hands over some of the money that was paid to him by Randy. He mentions (for the audience, Heather already knows) that Randy had left a cryptic voice mail message saying that he had left the King (the leader of the biggest wererat warren in the territory) and was starting his own operation, and wanted to speak to Damien personally. Damien treated it as a normal pay-for-protection meeting, and has no idea why he and his friends left the King. Catherine is not concerned with any potential fallout from the incident, as the King routinely has people break off from his group and start their own smaller warrens. She is not convinced that the attack on the two of them was just a freakout by the methheads, however, and thinks something else may have caused them to attack, and asks Damien to keep an ear to the ground for intel on what the King is up to. Catherine also gives them some names and information on hit targets, which Damien says will be performed by Heather and not by him, freeing him to do other business. There is the implication that there is more work to be done on Damien’s plate, and he needs Heather to be “promoted”. The meeting ends with Heather feeling good that her ten years of work for the Coven has been recognized.
Damien parts from Heather at this point, as they are in San Fransisco, and he doesn’t often get to spend leisure time in the city. He heads for the Castro to get some gay nightlife while she hunts for herself. We are shown how she uses her sex appeal to lure targets away at clubs and hangouts, drinking some of their blood and leaving them alive, though she admits that sometimes she gets carried away and leaves them dead. These are costly, though.
We learn a bit more about how vampire hypnosis works in this scene, as vampire saliva contains some euphoric compounds in it, and while the victim is feeling the effects, a vampire can command them to do pretty much anything. The effect wears off after a few hours, and their memories are severely impinged while they are under the control. There is a lasting permanent effect, even though they do not remember their vampires predators, were they to run into them again later, they would still be compelled to please the vampire. Heather remembers something specific at this point, something she never told Damien- and that is that she remembers Sierra (her sire/girlfriend) very vividly, implicating that even though Sierra turned her, she never used her mind-control abilities on Heather.
This upsets Heather, and it’s something she doesn’t like to think about, so she heads back to Oakland to be alone. She had intended on taking out one of her targets while she was in the city, but doesn’t feel she’s in the right headspace to take are of the job tonight. When she arrives at the building she lives in with Damien, she hears the sounds of sex coming from his bedroom. This is very unusual for Damien, he does not normally bring his lovers home, as he doesn’t like to invite questions about why he has so many weapons or anything else related to their work. Heather spends a few hours watching Netflix and sipping from a bag of blood.
Several hours before dawn Damien emerges from the bedroom, saying he didn’t hear her. She interrogates him about who he brought home and he mentions that she may not want to know. She replies that they’ve been friends for too long, and he invites his friend out. His name is Matthew, and he is a were-tiger, a bound beast like Damien, and one of his brothers-in-arms during the vampire/sorcerer purges. She’s heard Damien speak of him before, but never met him. Matthew and Damien fix a meal even though it’s still in the wee hours (Both are night-owls, so this is not unusual). They have a pleasant, friendly meal.
Matthew leaves right before dawn, and Damien and Heather go into the basement, where the sunlight can’t get in (where Heather normally sleeps). She confesses that she’s fucked up remembering Sierra, and that she shouldn’t remember Sierra if she was being preyed on, indicating that Sierra did not see Heather as just a thrall but respected her more. Damien tells her that Sierra was master of the long game, spending decades building a brood and turning entire towns into thralls, and using them as suicide warriors to throw off hunters. She also had a viscous, vindictive streak and was one of the most bloodthirsty vampires in living memory. This takes us to a flashback of how Sierra and Heather met.
Heather was attending college in Northern New York in the late nineties, and she was older than most of her classmates. She had trouble finding friends as an androgynous lesbian, but met Sierra at an all-night diner while studying. Sierra was very charming and respectful and they shared some interests, and they met several more times (in public places, always after dark) before she was finally invited to Sierra’s home. When she arrives, she realizes that it is full of young people who smoke a lot of pot and live in a hippie-esque commune in a big rundown house, though she realizes now that the other people in the house were Sierra’s thralls. They proceed to have sex (which is how a vampire turns a human) when the vampires hunters, led by Damien, show up and wipe out everyone in the hosue but her.
Back in the present, Damien sits with her and tells her why he didn’t kill her as well. As a gay man who was turned into a beast by a predator within the gay community, he was particularly focused on catching and killing Sierra, as sierra had a history of targeting queer communities, especially women, as her thralls and servants. That’s why she was so adept at staying underground and yet active during the purges, using the lessons of the queer community to stay out of the eye of authorities. Damien personally wanted hr taken down, and he was having several women of similar profiles to Heather watched, trying to see if Sierra would surface. Heather’s date was when they finally learned where her nest was, and Damien never forgave himself for not storming the place before the innocent Heather was turned. SO he spared her, convinced the Coven that having a vampire, free from the toxic influence of other vampires could be a valuable asset. And he was protective of her and grew to love her as a best friend in the years since they’ve been partners. Heather thanks Damien for telling her that, but she needs some time to process what she’s learned. He agrees, leaving her alone in the apartment for the day.
Unable to sleep during the day, Heather spends her time training with her weapons and going through the information on the targets she’s supposed to kill within the next few weeks. Damien had left her a note, saying that it was time she met Serena, another member of the Coven who operates out of north Oakland, saying that she might be able to determine where the Meteor steel axe came from. The note also reveals that Serena is the sorceress that they use to obscure the causes of death of the people killed in their work. They use cell phones to send pictures of the faces of the dead to her, and she casts spells that makes everyone perceive them as dying in different ways then they actually did. It is revealed that even the morticians putting Randy’s body back together for burial would not notice anything amiss and think that he has died in a meth-lab explosion, as the spell overrides any information the human takes in. This is how so much violence in the supernatural world goes undetected by the human authorities, as they can only perceive murders as heart attacks or muggings or drownings, no matter how gruesome the actual bodies are.
Once dusk falls, Heather heads to Serena’s place of business, a large three-story house that she notices is guarded by a pack of African-American werewolves. She’s told by the front door guard that she will need to wait but the Alpha of the pack, Ricardo, a tall, thin black man with very long braid, sits with her and offers her a cigarette. She mentions that she misses feeling the nicotine when smoking, as now she has lungs that heal much faster, but the drug no longer works on her vampire anatomy. The two apparently have worked together before, and she inquires how his pack came to be working for Serena. He mentions that the rest of the coven aren’t interested in having a pack of hood-wolves around them all the time, and this is the most high-profile position he can secure for his pack. It is implied that he is one of the few in the supernatural world that doesn’t mind that she is a vampire, as his previous experience as being the only black man in an otherwise-white pack makes him understand being looked at askance by others. The guard tells Heather that Serena will see her now. Ricardo goes up with her.
Serena, like all members of the Coven, is far older than she appears (A forty-something, heavyset black woman). She asks why Heather is without Damien and Heather responds that she doesn’t need a man around her at all times. Serena chides Heather on trying to use feminist themes to build rapport, and complains about the way she’s treated by the other white members of the council, and how she is still living and working in Oakland while the rest of the coven own high-rises and do business with the wealthy humans in the more expensive, trendy city. But Ricardo calls her out, saying that despite the racism she experiences, she doesn’t use her power and influence to stop gentrification or combat the Oakland PD. Serena tells Ricardo to shut up, but it’s clear that there is tension between the two of them.
Ricardo stays in the room while Serena meets with Heather officially. They sit at a table and discuss business. Heather pays Serena for her services (spells to obscure cause of death) and they converse about what it means for Heather to be working independently of Damien, and Heather brings out the Meteor steel axe, asking if Serena can identify who made it. Serena puts her hand on the head and says that this axe was forged by none other than Damien himself. Heather is unable to say anything, as just at that moment, a bullet comes through the window and strikes Ricardo in the chest. Heather grabs Serena and hits the ground as the sounds of gunfire break out around the house.
Ricardo is dead, his chest smoking, indicating the assailants are using silver weapons. Heather gets her knives and gun ready, and listens for heartbeats while huddling with Serena under the table. One of the assailants, clad in heavy body armor, enters the room with a shotgun drawn, but she uses her vampire speed to pin him to the wall and shoot him under his riot mask. Then she leads Serena, on their hands and knees, through the door and into the hallway. They are on the third floor and Heather thinks perhaps they can find a choke point so that she can take out the attackers. She tells Serena to stay huddled in the corner, but she panics and runs to the stairs, and she’s hit by a shotgun blast and falls down the stairs.
Heather leaps onto the banister just in time to see an attacker standing over Serena and shooting her in the head, saying over the radio that the target has been killed. She pulls out her knife, planning on leaping down and killing the attacker, but she realizes that it’s likely that none of the attackers have seen her or know that she is there, as they are here for Serena. She stays low and goes back for the axe, removing all evidence that she was there, and sneaks out a window (tracking heartbeats in the area to make sure she isn’t seen). Most of the pack dead now, both in wolf and human forms. She wonders if she should be doing something to help them, but decides that they were clearly ready, as it’s only been a minute or two as the assailants were clearly ready for them. But she also remembers how loyal Ricardo was to his pack, and decides to help if she can. But by this time most of the pack is dead or fled, but she does detect one cowering heartbeat in the street. She stays in the shadows and makes it out to the car where one of the pack is hidden- a kid who had been sent out to pick up pizza for the group. She climbs under the car with him and tells him to stay down and quiet as the assailants retrieve their dead (only two) and drive away.
Heather takes the kid (Tommy) away from the scene and calls an uber. He is distraught, but she tells him that he needs to find another pack and soon. She gives him the name of a few people who owe her favors and says they can find someplace to hide him, and then she calls and Uber to take him to the train station. She calls one for herself and starts to think about the situation. A member of the council is dead, and the political ramifications of all this are too much for her to understand on her own, and she needs to go back to Damien to discuss.
But when she arrives at the building, she sees police cars around it. She tries to get closer on foot, but there are so many that she’s worried. Deciding it’s too dangerous to go back home, she feeds of a pedestrian and takes her smartphone, making her give Heather the unlock code before she lets her go. She uses facebook to see if she can try to find Matthew, who she knows is retired, thinking that he may know something that went down. She locates him and sends him a message, but he doesn’t answer, though she does see that he has been active within the last few minutes, so she knows he is alive somewhere.
It’s nearing two am now, and Heather is starting to worry that her backup safehouses might be compromised. She decides that there’s nothing she can do about trying to contact Damien, as he’s answering none of his burner phones. She decides to go to airport long-term parking, watching for a car to enter and its owners to go to their flight. She jimmies the trunk open and hides in the trunk, finally letting herself cry and feel the stress. She’s only in there an hour, though, when someone pounds on the trunk. She readies her weapons, but the voice (a woman) announces that she (HEather) is “one of us”. She opens the trunk and another vampire is standing over her, telling her that she has a safe-house where they can wait out the coming storm.
She is taken to a house in Orinda, where in the basement there are a group of humans who have clearly been thralled, digging beneath the floorboards. The vampire who fetched her (Monica) is a slender black woman with wait-length braids, and there are two other vampires living in the house. One of them, a white woman with short, conservative red hair, tells her that this group of all-female, lesbian vampires has been living under the radar for many years, surviving the purges since they never built nests or used permanent thralls, never built up their own feifdoms, so it was not hard to stay low. They reveal that multiple wolfpacks, and several businesses owned by members of the Coven, along with some of their suppliers for potion ingredients, have been hit by squads in the past day or so, severely weakening the Coven’s position. They are planning to go dormant in the ground, taking turns to be awake in the basement for a few years until whatever is going to happen is done and a new power structure is in place, exactly what they did to survive the last purge and more. They say that two of their vampire sisters have no reported in for several days, and they fear the worst.
Heather is floored by all of this, processing the shock that not all vampires were wiped out in the purge. She’s unable to fully process this new information, as she’s still far too worried about Damien. Just before dawn she finally gets a message from Matthew, saying that he heard on the police scanner that there was an unidentified white male killed in a home invasion- and that it was Damien. Distraught, Heather climbs into a box and cries herself to sleep.
She wakes an hour or so before dusk, laying in her “coffin” and thinking about what her options are. The other vampires told her that this is how their people survive, but living and not being predators unnecessarily. She thinks about Damien and uses the phone to search news reports, confirming what Matthew told her. And then she looks at new reports about the violence at Serena’s house, which is being reported as gang warfare, with a stash of drugs found at the scene. But this does not make any sense- Ricardo would never involve his crew in drugs, and the assailants left before the police arrived, they didn’t have time to set up a convincing scene, so what is going on? She concludes that Serena must not be the only one capable of casting a spell to convince others or different death circumstances. That means there is a other sorcerers behind the goings-on.
She gets out of her coffin and tells the other vampires that she is going to try and figure out what it going on as she believes Damien could still be alive and that she owes it to him to try. The other vampires say that it is a fool’s errand, but they will not stop her. She waits until after dusk and has one of the thralls drive her to the BART station.
She only has one lead to go on- the axe. Randy must have been involved or known something, as meteor steel is very hard to find as has only a few years before it ceases to work. There was one survivor of the massacre at the meth lab- Sarah, the rat who got away, and there’s only one place she could likely show up. Heather decides to pay a visit to the King.
She arrives at the King’s warren, a warehouse on the outskirts of San Leandro that has been converted into massive living space for more than fifty wererats. She’s stopped by the guards just inside the door and told to disarm. She does so (she left the axe back at the vampire house). All her knives and her guns taken from her, and her cloak, so she’s topless except for her harness. She’s led to the King, a greasy old man who has two of his guards stand behind her and does not offer her a seat. She tells him she’s only here to talk to Sarah, and she promises she will be unharmed. The King calls Sarah in, who is dressed very skimpily and has a look in her eyes that Heather recognizes as someone who is being abused. She realizes that the price for her re-admission is to be a concubine of the king, and she gets very angry, but she does not show it. She asks Sarah where Randy obtained the meteor steel, but she doesn’t answer. Instead, the King says that he has a stash of it, because he is always prepared and never trusted that the Coven had a vampire pet, knowing that Heather would either be used against him or turn on the Coven. He then raises a crossbow, but Heather is ready for him, closing her eyes before the bolt comes into her eyeline. And when he fires, she manages to catch the bolt blind (they neglected to take her gloves), stabbing it into the closest guard deep enough that the meteor steel tip is buried in his flesh, so it is safe to open her eyes. She holds the gun on the other guard, commanding him to drop his weapon. He complies, and she shoots the King in the neck. She leaves the wounded guard and takes the other hostage as she leaves the room to more guns drawn on her, but they cannot shoot without injuring their comrade. She tells them that she killed the King because he was a predatory asshole and that the Coven should have taken him out years ago. Enough of the rat in the area seem to agree with her, and she’s allowed to leave, but not before she warns them that there will be a similar fate if another shitty person rises to the top of the hierarchy.
The only useful piece of information she has from the ordeal is that the King had clues to vampire activity, and it wasn’t her. But she doesn’t have Damien’s intel network at hand, so she goes to the only other person who is high-placed enough to know what might be going on- Catherine. She goes to Catherine’s office, breaking the glass doors and incapacitating a guard as she marches to the office. She’s met by the guard Damien traded words with a few days prior, and warns him and his men that she needs to speak to Catherine,a nd she wants no violence. The captain tries to fire on her, and she goes into kill mode, taking out all of them and feeding on the last one before he dies to replenish her energy. And then she comes into Catherine’s office.
There is a short scene where Catherine tries to use magic to defend herself, but Heather knocks the wind out of her before she can finish. She tells Catherine that she wants to know what’s going on and needs to know what other vampires could be involved. Catherine tells her that she doesn’t know anything about that, but there is an emergency meeting of the Coven to discuss what has been happening, and she suspects that there might be a coup attempt, so she’s not going. She knows that coven meetings take place in a magic room that can only be accessed via teleportation devices the Coven members have in their possession, and the room is ensorcled so that no spells can be cast nor weapons brought in. She realizes that a vampire could be very dangerous were they to gain access to a meeting. She leaves Catherine and teleports to the room.
The Coven is ready for the meeting, the three remaining sorceresses standing in their particular corners of the room. They shout at her, but then three others enter the room, one of them saying “Hey honey.” The other three are Serena, Damien, and Sierra.
It all clicks into place for Heather. Serena used her deathmask spell to fake both hers and Damien’s deaths, and she realizes that years ago she also did it for Sierra. Sierra had been planning this for years, a way to make the world think she was dead while she hid out with the vampires Heather met earlier, planning her takeover of the only sorcerer-ruled territory on the continent. Damien’s sparing of her when she was turned was at the direction of Sierra.
Heather is full of rage and reaches for her weapons, but realizes she has none. Sierra tells her that she knew Heather would make a good vampire, and now all these years later they can be together, with the coven as their thralls. Heather is furious, angry that her relationship with Damien was based on a lie, but she remembers what Damien told her about Sierra’s methods and personality, and is enraged that such a manipulative psychopath used them all for her own ends. She tells Sierra that she will die tonight, but Sierra laughs and command Damien to turn.
Damien turns into a bear and charges at her, and it takes all her energy to be able to dodge the bear and stay out of the way of his claws. She takes a few deep scratches and feels her blood energy wane, and falls to the ground as the bear pins her and roars in her face. With no other option, she does the only thing she can, biting Damien on the neck and draining his blood. The drug takes effect and she pulls back, telling Damien to turn on Sierra. Sierra screams and tries to get Serena to defend her bodily, but Heather kicks Serena’s legs out form under her, and Damien tears Sierra apart.
Heather stands and tells the remaining coven members that vampires will be allowed to exist in the territories from now on, provided they do not permanently enslave thralls and avoid killing humans when possible. She commands Damien to turn back, and cries when she looks at him. She wonders how much of their relationship was at the direction of Sierra’s manipulation, and now that he has been thralled, their relationship can never be real, if it ever was.
Physical description: A slim, short-haired, androgynous vampire. Born in the early seventies and turned in the late nineties, so she presents as mid-to-late twenties. White.
Conflict: She is content in her existence with Damien, being a hitman for the Coven. She has formidable abilities but little social capital in her world. Through the course of the book, she starts to realize that the system she works for is corrupted and vulnerable, but she lacks the power to do anything about it.
Theme: As the last vampire, she is different from everyone else, and she is dependent on her patron and best friend Damien for economic survival and moral guidance. She is literally different from everyone else, and the only things she knows of her people are stories told about how evil they were. She does not connect the dots that vampires can be non-predatory and abusive, instead attributing it to Damien’s influence. But she eventually takes on other abusers, including her own.
The world she lives in was birthed on the concept to be free from the patriarchy, even though it exists *because* the power players used the existing patriarchy to deal with threats to themselves. But the lack of men in power does not mean that this world is without predators and abuse and exploitation. Heather will grow and challenge those precepts, even if she can’t think of what’s she’s doing in those terms.
Big Bad: Sierra
Physical Description: A short, skinny white woman who favors colorful hairstyles and is quite charming. She is a viscous predatory vampire. It is unknown how old she actually is. She has become one of the most elusive and viscous vampire predators by preferring to prey on queer communities, who have a long history of hiding from authorities. She’s used these lessons to build her followings multiple times, and thinks nothing about sacrificing her folowers to guarantee her safety or power.
Relationship to Heather: She is the one who turned Heather, and while she was turning, Heather witnessed her (staged) death at the hands of Damien. She is the one directing the coup attempt on the Coven, and intends for Heather to be her plaything/partner. Heather is haunted by the fact that she remembers all of the interactions she had with Sierra before her death was faked, indicating that Sierra never used her mind-control powers on Heather.
Conflict: She’s the prime mover and the final boss.
Theme: Sierra is a metaphor for predators and abusers within the queer community. She is small and female and genderqueer but that does not prevent her form being one of the worst abusers on the planet, and as queer communities tend to favor solidarity and have limited resources, predators can use them to thrive and use the breakdown of patriarchal norms to hide and gaslight their victims, as well as get them ostracized from the group. Additionally, the two big characters that she thralls during the story, Serena and Damien, also seem to further their own interests, indicating that serving the interests of an abuser is not without benefits.
Physical Description: A big fat white man, overweight, and a werebear. He is charming and funny. Unlike most weremen, he is not naturally bonr, but changed by a sorcerer in deacdes past. He does not age.
Conflict: Damien is off-page for most of the book, but his relationship with Heather is the most important to her. There is unresolved tension between them, however, because he was a very good vampire hunter, something he will never resolve with her. There is also the fact that Heather is fuly dependent on him, as without his patronage she would be killed for “safety” reasons.
Theme: Damien is technically a minority (gay) but he has managed to rise high the power structure and get his own “pet” vampire accepted, but only after they both prove useful to the existing power structure, though violence. His love for Heather is genuine (though she can never be sure, and neither can the audience) but tainted in that it began as a manipulation by the Big Bad. While heather is able to save him from Sierra’s influence, the cost is that he is now thralled. The relationship has to end at this point, as he is bound to please her at all times in her presence going forward. What was real before is no longer, and the power dynamics have shifted in the exact opposite direction.
Physical description: mid-thirties, black werewolf.
Relationship to Heather: Their paths have crossed in the past, and they bond over having spent some time in the military. He feels he can be honest with her, even if their relationship is friendly but not close.
Conflict: He has made a pack of black werewolves as black wolves in other packs tend to face racism despite good intentions by the white members. This has given him and his pack a reputation that severely limits their earning power. He is also still mortal, unlike the sorcerers, vampires, or Damien, and still wants to improve life in Oakland for black humans as well.
Theme: He has successfully made a safe space, but racism prevents his pack from bettering themselves as much as others. He and most of his pack are killed when Sierra is targeted, which is another demonstration of racism. When heather finally has the ear of the council, she does not mention his desire to do something about the racist Oakland PD, as she is more concerned with the fate of her own people, which is a metaphor for progressive politics and resistance often failing to demand racial justice.
Physical Description: The only black sorceress in the Coven. Heavyset, presenting as middle-aged, wears a headwrap. Has considerable power in Oakland, and feels that her race dictates where she is allowed to hold power. Resents the other Coven members.
Relationship to Heather: Incidental, mostly. They meet for the first time within the story, and this is the first time heather learns of her.
Conflict: With Ricardo. She is a member of the Coven and rails against racism she personally faces, but Ricardo calls her out on her reluctance to use her power to help mortal black people.
Theme: She has been in power a long time, and remembers what struggles she had against entrenched power, but now that she is a part of that power, she has not prioritized the struggles of those beneath her. This is a theme of all the immortals- they devalue human life and suffering as they are “above” it, given enough time.
Physical Description: A mid-forties woman with a penchant for while power suits. Dark, short hair, a feminine but powerful aura.
Relationship to Heather: Heather meets her for the first time within the story. She is mostly businesslike, evaluating Heather’s status as a sanctioned agent of the Coven bu weighing the political ramifications against the value she beings as a violent actor.
Conflict: She sees the coup coming, though she doesn’t understand from where, and is looking for a way to protect herself.
Theme: She is a representation of the existing power structure. Despite her rise to power being about smashing the patriarchy, the corporate-like organization she heads mostly resembles the male-led mortal corporate organizations in San Francisco as well. This shows that putting women in power is not enough if all they do is replace men with power. She is also primarily interested in saving herself form the coup attempt and not the rest of the Coven, demonstrating that rising to power rewards extreme selfishness.
Physical description: A man in his early seventies, wearing “hippie” garb. He runs that largest warren of were-rats, using his followers to grow marijuana, cook meth, and create “artist” kitsch for sale.
Relationship with Heather: He sees the signs (some of his people being thralled) and assumes that Heather is responsible, as the only vampire still around. He attempts to kill her, but his arrogance allows her to turn the tables on him.
Theme: While Sierra is a manifestation of abusive behaviors in queer spaces, hiding behind anti-heteronormativity, the King is the same for polyamory and kink spaces. He uses terms like “free love” and “kink- shaming” to justify his harem of women, with whom he holds a considerable amount of power, with the ability to toss them out if they do not satisfy him. Unlike Sierra, however, his people are aware of what a monster he is and can theoretically leave (though not without considerable instability in doing so), so they do nothing to avenge him when Heather kills him, especially in light of that fact that she spared his guards. He’s intentionally coded as a baby boomer hippie.