Title: The Shifter
Author: Jean Johnson
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Series: The World of Sons of Destiny (Book 1)
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
ISBN-10: 0425247333 (Penguin/Berkley)
ISBN-13: 978-0425247334 (Penguin/Berkley)
Reviewed by: Kiwi
Before the Sons of Destiny came to be, shapechangers ruled the heart of a shattered empire and navigated the uncertain shifts of fate…
Years have passed since there was any sighting of Family Mongrel on the Shifting Plains. Yet traces remain, and they lead south into the Correda Mountains. As a favor to his brother and sister-in-law, Kenyen Sin Siin has taken it upon himself to track down these hints from the past and make sure the curs have not survived. The trail grows colger, more tangles, until he’s trapped in a valley where not everyone is as they seem. He will either adapt and survive or be uncovered and perish before his mission is complete.
Wary of strangers and distrustful of the unfamiliar, Solyn Ys Rei and her best friend have formed a secret resistance. One of a rare few with the ability to stand up to and evade enemies, she must still tread with great caution, particularly when even her best friend starts acting oddly. Allies could be enemies lurking in disguise, and a stranger’s face could hide a new foe as easily as a new friend.
Quick & Dirty: An interesting read, but not as engaging as I would have liked.
Opening Sentence: “Married?” Traver hissed, leaning close as he reached over Solyn’s shoulder to hang yet another sprig of greenery on the drying lines strung in her mother’s herb-room.
So in the world of Jean Johnson, before the invention of electricity and motors and the internet, *shudder* live regular mortals, some magical some not and a race of shapechangers, who unfortunately cannot only become animals, but can also imitate other people. Like they can shift their bones and muscles, skin etc. and literally take on someone else’s face, their identity, their lives. *double shudder* Once they reach adulthood, however, the face replication becomes a big no-no and the shapes of the animals are the only ones they are allowed to change into. And unlike most shifting races you hear about, these crazy cats can learn to take the forms of multiple animals, the most proficient being able to take on more than ten. And they have this ability to only do it half way, or maybe become a snake with a rat tail or something. Serious business! Oh, and practicing magic is a norm for some as well, with healers and craftsmen, governing bodies and rule keepers. So, in other words, this isn’t Kansas anymore Dorothy.
Our story features a shifter by the name of Kenyen Sin Siin, a fairly well to do member of his clan, whose strengths make him valuable as a member of these groups that travel from place to place keeping the peace, as it were. This particular party has been assembled to suss out the location of a band of bad guys, members of their race banished for various crimes, who now are joined together in a tribe called the Family Mongrel. On a scouting mission, he finds a body that leads him to a valley in the mountains, where some things just aren’t right. In this valley, Kenyen runs into a man named Traver, who is on his way to the capital to tell a vicious tale, though he is caught before he makes it. When the two are attacked by a banished shifter, Kenyen realizes he has found this Family Mongrel and they are doing something fairly hideous. They are killing innocent citizens of the valley and imitating their form so that they may take over their lives, their properties, their women. Kenyen decides to go undercover in this clan and is persuaded to take on the form of Traver, for he has a unique position that they need to take advantage of. For Traver’s fiancé holds the key to the secret the Mongrels have been searching for and they want Kenyen to find it out for them.
Solyn Ys Rei is the fiancé of Traver, well pretend fiancé after having created the engagement to keep one of the other single males from perusing her further. Solyn and Traver have been watching the goings on around town for a while now, and they have figured out what is being done to their neighbors and the reason why. When Traver returns from his trip with wounds and apparent amnesia, Solyn is concerned for her friend. After spending some time with Traver after his “accident,” she begins to notice more and more things that are different about him. When she finally gets up the nerve to confront him, she finds out that indeed he is being impersonated by a shifter, but this one is a good guy. Now that she knows, she agrees to help Kenyen rid her valley of this evil, for the secret she carries could cause the death of her family and other ramifications that could affect the rest of the world. And it all has to do with a bit of moldy cheese.
What neither of them expected, or actually went looking for, was a friendship with the other, or later, the blooming affection. But, Kenyen was raised to treat his women with more respect and care than to take her to the nearest cheese cavern for a romp. But, on the night of a terrible storm, the two find themselves trapped in one of those very caves, and discover they cannot resist this any longer. Solyn basically talks him into it, because really, who can resist “waxing the cheese” with a man whose tongue can be in two places at once *ahem*. Kenyen is still unsure, but he agrees to share mutual pleasure, and then stops before they get to the really good part.
It has been what feels like an eternity since I read the Sons of Destiny series by this author, so I’m not sure if there is supposed to be things connecting this to those stories that I am just forgetting, or if they just don’t connect at all. I do remember the part where each region, or country, had its own deity or deities, because I remember some big confab with all of them in one of the later books. Other than that, I apologize because my mind is just pulling one huge blank.
That being said, I’m not sure I liked this story as much as I seem to remember liking her other ones. I went through all those books pretty quickly according to my records, which usually indicates reading pleasure, for me anyway. And from the bits and pieces that keep coming to me, I’m pretty sure I would’ve rated them higher. I guess this story was just missing something. There wasn’t as much romance in this one I guess, maybe because the hero was pretending to be someone else the whole time? It’s one of those things that are hard to put your finger on. That’s not to say that the book is not good, just that my enjoyment level wasn’t as high as with some others.
“Now, since you seem bent on ruining my secret, what are you looking for? And make it quick. I haven’t had breakfast yet, and it’s been a very long time since I had someone to chew on.”
Tunric narrowed his dark eyes at the order. He did move, though, turning to face Reina. The Healer was glaring stoically at him, unmoved by the blade at her throat. “Greensteel,” he growled. “The antithesis of that accursed bluesteel, which marks us all. The one thing which can un-scar our bodies, and allow us to completely blend in wherever we want to go. And this bitch and her cur-pup know how to make it!”
Reina frowned at the first insult, but Ysander only blinked in confusion at his. Kenyen decided to enlighten them as to the slander. “He means you’re not only the lowest of the low, being a cur, you’re at the bottom of all hierarchies, following along in the wake of a woman, of all things.”
The news only received another bemused blink.
The man holding the blacksmith snorted. “Too stupid to know when he’s been insulted. Can I cut ‘im, now?”
A muffled wail interrupted any answer their leader might have made. Luelyn sobbed against the hand smothering her mouth, fresh tears trickling onto her cheeks. Caught in her husband’s fake stranglehold, Solyn quickly started humming. It was the same tune she had used the other night, with the same soothing energies pouring out of her. This time, she didn’t just touch one distraught female, her sister, but extended it to the Mongrel shifters in the room.
It was all Kenyen could do to prevent a sneeze, at that. He even reshaped the interior of his nostrils, trying to quell the damnable itch her magics stirred. Half a dozen tries, plus some thick-scaled skin, cut off both his sense of smell and the itch, save for its after-effects. Eyes watering, he watched some of Tunric’s belligerent tension ease. Some, but not all.
Thankfully, none of the other four shifters looked inclined to sneeze. That did, however, make him think of an alternate plan to distract the Mongrels in their quest. Now to find the right moment to tell them.
“No. Not yet,” Tunric muttered. “We still need something that’ll remove our permanent scars—and will you shut her up?” he added, turning to scowl at Kenyen. His gaze strayed briefly to the humming woman. “She’s beginning to annoy me.”
“Why?” Kenyen countered. “She’s keeping the brat quiet.”
“It’s annoying me, that’s why!” Tunric snapped. “Either you shut her up, you damn pup, or I’ll slit her throat! She doesn’t know the secret to making it!”
Solyn jumped at that threat, losing the thread of her hastily cobbled spell. She recovered fast, though. A quick, hard look at her sister, and Luelyn widened her eyes. A heartbeat later, the little girl wailed again, this time even louder and more frenetically.
“Oh, for sodomizing a Netherdemon—shut up, you little brat, or I’ll tear out your throat myself!” Tunric ordered the young girl. She shrieked at that thought and sobbed wildly.
“You do that, you Netherdemon spawn, and I will pull your body to pieces with my powers!” Reina snarled, losing her calm at the threat to her child. She grabbed wildly at the arms holding her prisoner, forcing the shifter actually to actually struggle to contain her. “By Cora, I swear I will!”
The World of the Sons of Destiny Series:
1. The Shifter
FTC Advisory: Penguin/Berkley provided me with a copy of The Shifter. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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