An exclusive e-book from Merchant’s Keep, Ouroboros starts off with a fairly well-trodden intro: Costello is a mob boss looking to hire an assassin named O to hunt down and kill another hitman named Rei in retaliation for Rei kidnapping, carving, and killing Costello’s daughter. For a brief time after O took the job, I got a vibe similar to the old Shadow pulp novels. (I’ve read only two, so I’m hardly an expert) However, soon thereafter, O reveals that he isn’t human, but an Asian skinwalker, a form of wereanimal. I won’t ruin the many surprises in store for readers, but I will say that O’s animal form is as unique as his method of transformation is. The visual description on his animal form is vivid, and the way “The Other” killed his victims left me shuddering every time I thought about being eaten alive like that.
At just a hair under 12K, this is a very short story. But it packs one hell of a punch in that short span, making me feel a lot for O, and for Jesse, a junkie hooker who sees O change while she’s higher than a kite. As such she isn’t all there to plan a proper escape. But once she sobers up, she makes a decision that is both tragic and noble.
This is a story with a tiny cast, but the two leading roles are both intriguing and easy to identify with. I wished there had been more time spent on the antagonists, but with such a short story, it’s just not possible. So really, my worst complaint with Ouroboros was that it could have stretched on a bit longer. (My few other complaints are so tiny, they aren’t worth bringing up.)
A fantastic story with a surprising ending, I give Ouroboros four stars and recommend it to fans of shapeshifters, horror, and dark fantasy.