3.75 stars, rounded up
I wasn't expecting this to have two stories in one book, so 3.5 stars for the first story and 4 stars for the second story.
I need to preface this review by saying that I don't really read shifter books. The only other series I attempted was THIRDS, and that was so silly and OTT that the shifter part of it was the least of my worries. So maybe my expectations on what to expect for world-building is way off from what is typical of this genre. Because the one thing that the first THIRDS book did do well was world-building. It explained how the virus got started, how protocols and laws and research were set up. I don't know if that was considered excessive for this genre, or the norm, or if this is an "anything goes" genre and world-building isn't really all that necessary. But, as a reader of any kind of genre, I need world-building and while this series does have it, it's not to the extent I had expected. It's kind of sprinkled throughout, as if all this stuff is common knowledge. That kind of casual world-building can work, as is the case in A Song of Ice and Fire series, but then I'm also very familiar with fantasy tropes; I'm not familiar at all with shifter tropes. So I need more information than what I'm getting here, and I'm left with a lot of questions, but it's only the first book so I can be patient.
I've heard the Infected series compared to THIRDS as the much stronger, more serious series of the two, and from this debut book I can attest to that. The mysteries are stronger, the villain is relatable and human and not a cardboard villain created by Disney. The protagonists are fully developed and flawed but not in a way "I drank too much Jolt" kind of way. They're relatable and oftentimes frustrating (stop lying to each other! OMG!). There are humorous touches, like how they named all their appliances. The side characters are also well written and have their own motivations and purposes. This super hot-shot ex-cop who is so good at his job is actually really good at his job. It's not as quick-paced as THIRDS and certainly nowhere approaching silly, but that's where it's strongest I think.
These are NOT romances, so they shouldn't be read as if they are. (I already know how the second book ends.) The focus is the mysteries and the investigations. There are no sex scenes (hallelujah!) but plenty of affection.
I am still readjusting how I think of shifter books. I've always considered them rather silly, but that was largely influenced by the first ever ever shifter book I read which was pretty much garbage and doesn't deserve attention pointed at it. But I have the same kind of kneejerk reaction to shifters as I do vampires - that was so 20 years ago. Which makes no sense when you consider I love Supernatural, Buffy/Angel and X-Men and all those Marvel movies, and I listened to all the current Harry Dresden novels in less than a year. (Well, the vampires kind of makes sense because Edward Cullen and Stephenie Meyer ruined that genre forever, screw them very much.) Still, I admit there were times in this book when I was fighting the eye roll at the "ooh shifters" happenings even though it was actually pretty interesting stuff. I'm contradictory, what can I say.
The editing was pretty good overall. The only real issues I had there was the use of too many "him"s and "he"s when there was more than one dude in the scene. It often made it difficult to know who the "him" or "he" was referring to. I have the first edition, so maybe this was cleaned up in the second edition. Ms. Speed also uses some unnecessarily specific similes at times, which pulled me out of the story as I tried to figure out why that particular comparison was being made. For example, at one point Paris is described as sitting on his couch with his legs up on the cushions, like one would sit on Oprah's couch. Now, it's been quite awhile since I watched any Oprah, even before she went off the air, but I don't recall anyone ever sitting on her couches like that. Also, isn't that how most people sit on their couches, assuming they don't have back problems or knee injuries? So why was the specific mention of Oprah and her couches necessary? What exactly was Ms. Speed trying to say there? I couldn't figure it out and it took me awhile to refocus on the story. There were a few other such similes, but I didn't bother to highlight them. I did notice it being less of an issue in the second story than in the first one. The second story was all around more tightly written and structured than the first.
So putting my "meh, shifters" prejudice aside, this is a solid start to the series. You can't really go wrong with that Volume 1 bundle price, so I'll be reading at least up to book 5 (yes, including book 2).