October 25, 2011

The Shapeshifters by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

read an excerpt here
Format: Paperback
Release Date: January 12, 2010
Purchase Link: Amazon

Danica Shardae, an avian shapeshifter, will do anything in her power to stop the war that has raged between her people and the serpiente—even pretend to be in love with Zane Cobriana, the terrifying leader of her kind’s greatest enemy, and accept him as her pair bond. But will Zane strike as swiftly and lethally as the cobra that is his second form?

A surprising union has brought peace to the avians and serpiente. Soon a child will be born to carry on their royal lines. But Syfka, an ancient falcon, is claiming that one of her people is hidden in the avian and serpiente land. Is Syfka’s lost falcon just a ruse to stir up controversy among them?

Nicias is a falcon, the son of two exiles from Ahnmik, and images of this distant island have always haunted his dreams. When his visions become more like reality, his parents send him back to the homeland—and a royal falcon—they’ve tried their best to forget.

Oliza Shardae Cobriana is heir to Wyvern’s Court, home of the avians and serpiente, whose war with each other ended just before Oliza was born. But hatred is slow to die, and Oliza’s serpiente suitor is found beaten in avian land. How can she be expected to lead a unified society if her people still cannot live peacefully together?

Hai, daughter of a falcon mother and a deceased cobra father, is considered a mongrel by most, an ally by some, and a friend by few. When Hai’s cousin abdicates the throne of Wyvern’s Court, Hai has visions of destruction. Now she will do anything to protect her new home—even if it means betraying the very people who need her most.


Like Den of Shadows, The Shapeshifters is a digest of AAR's Were series. However we are not talking about the staple wolves and all that. In AAR's world, her shifters are avians (hawks, falcons, ravens), serpents (cobra, boas) and tigers.

This has at least a thousand pages with 5 summarized stories. It's edited smartly and the essence of the stories were not compromised. At first I was intimidated by such a thick book but once I started I realized that I couldn't put it down. The Shapeshifters is more of a science-fiction/fantasy read than paranormal. But it's still dark and gritty told with amazing clarity

Basically this is a story about war, love, loyalty, fealty and betrayal. The book opens with Hawksong and we're in the middle of a long war between the Hawks and the Cobras. So much has been lost for reasons nobody remembers anymore until a truce has been offered. The only way to unite warring factions is through an old fashioned alliance via marriage. The Hawk Queen Danica Shardae is to be married to the Cobra King Zane Cobriana. Soon assassinations followed but Danica and Zane's good intent prevailed and those trials made them realize that their union is more than a political alliance but a marriage of the heart.

In Snakecharm, Danica and Zane realizes that maybe some of their goals have been too idealistic. Yes the war has ceased for now but years of hatred and animosity is still skimming the surface of their kingdoms. Danica is now with child and though part human, their shifter side is still a dominant gene in their make up. Not everyone is keen on having a ruler who is not of pure blood. Plus which form will their child take, that of a Hawk or a Cobra? Will their people accept the heir that they will leave to lead them?Will the peace end on their reign or will it continue for generations? On top of that, the fearsome Empire of the Falcons are in their midst, searching for the lost bretheren.

Falcondance is a couple of years after Snakecharm set in Danica and Zane's Wyvern Court. Told in the voice of Nicias, a falcon aristocrat whose parents were exiled. His magic is now calling to him which forced him to visit the Falcon Empire. This story is a bit of a drag, it feels monotonous as Nicias tries to understand his roots but everyone has their own agenda. He's between a tug of war and he can't decide which call to heed to.

Come Wolfcry, Oliza (Danica and Zane's daughter) is caught in a crossroads. First one of her suitors is attacked then she gets abducted. Which only proves how far the Wyvern court is from healing thousands of years of war between the avian and serpiente. On top of that, other kingdoms are meddling with their affairs because Oliza having both hawk and sperpent magic is a threat. As a result, Oliza abdicated from the throne and named her cousin and aunt as her successors. AND she chose a lady wolf as her mate.

And it all ends in Wyvernhail, where loyalties are tested and life changing choices are made.
The story has an exotic feel to it, the names of the characters are so unique it defines their personalities. The setting is medieval in the sense that there are warring kingdoms and empires, alliances, old fashioned swords and arrows and military strategies. I love the pace and the conflicts of each story is so complex you're kept guessing who the villain is.

However, the story lost me at mid point. For some reason I wasn't able to connect with the rest of the stories anymore. It became too technical for me to grasp, the complicated jargons especially the focus on the dances mentioned were way over my head. I understand that the novels are shortened to fit the concept but probably it wasn't a very good idea to have done that.

Another thing that was a little off for me were the characters' love matches. It wouldn't have mattered if they were plain people but since their animal sides are dominant and their bloodline is apparent on both their human and animal forms. For instance, Oliza is a Wyvern (hawk and serpent) who chose a female wolf as her mate, ok that's safe but how about a cross breed of a hawk and a falcon or raven? A falcon and a viper? An avian and a wolf? I mean the genetic implications are mind boggling!

In my opinion, in stories like this one the difference all lie in the details. It's very tricky to create a universe and make it as vivid and real in the pages. There were a lot of things in the series that are Atwater-Rhodes' own, things that you will only read from her and not anywhere else. The magic became alchemy for me, that's how complicated the story became from Falcondance til the end.
Oh well, maybe it's just me and my limited imagination.


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