Title: The Shape of Desire
Author: Sharon Shinn
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Shifting Circle (Book 1)
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
ISBN-10: 1937007170 (Penguin/Ace)
ISBN-13: 978-1937007171 (Penguin/Ace)
Reviewed by: Kristie
For fifteen years Maria Devane has been desperately, passionately in love with Dante Romano. But despite loving him with all of her heart and soul, Maria knows that Dante can never give all of himself back-at least not all the time.
Every month, Dante shifts shape, becoming a wild animal. During those times, he wanders far and wide, leaving Maria alone. He can’t choose when he shifts, the transition is often abrupt and, as he gets older, the time he spends in human form is gradually decreasing. But Maria, who loves him without hesitation, wouldn’t trade their unusual relationship for anything.
Since the beginning, she has kept his secret, knowing that their love is worth the danger. But when a string of brutal attacks occur in local parks during the times when Dante is in animal form, Maria is forced to consider whether the lies she’s been telling about her life have turned into lies she’s telling herself…
Quick & Dirty: A deeply emotional story about the power of love and secrets.
Opening Sentence: It’s around two in the morning when I hear a rustle and bump in the kitchen, and I sit up in bed.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up The Shape of Desire. I have never read a Sharon Shinn book before but I have heard good things about her writing. I couldn’t help but feel the first few chapters had the feel of early Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series and Charlaine Harris mysteries. Sharon Shinn makes shape-shifters all her own while adding a layer of mystery to the myth. They are dirty and stinky after they change shape, still have cuts and bruises and they have no control over when they change or what shape they take. That is how it affects Dante but it is different for his brother and sister.
Maria starts off the novel as kind of a loner. She fits in with her family and co-workers just enough to be friendly. If they begin asking her questions about her personal life she quickly comes up with an appropriate lie to fill in the gap. Maria prides herself at how well she believes she can tell lies. She is so good that Maria’s co-workers know she is trustworthy with their personal business.
Maria cannot help that she loves Dante. She has loved him unconditionally for fifteen years. She doesn’t even question the fact that he is a shape-shifter, even though she actually hasn’t seen him change. She doesn’t question a lot of things when it comes to Dante. She has met his brother and sister who also claim to be shape-shifters which adds to her belief of Dante. Maria spends most of her days working as an accountant and just waiting for the days Dante shows up at her door. Dante is the love of Maria’s life and she wouldn’t change that for anything even though secretly she wants a husband that she wakes up to and a child to raise. She knows how Dante feels about having a family and if she brings up the subject they will just argue.
Maria and Dante spend most of their time together making love or arguing. When Dante first shows up at Maria’s they are like a happily married couple on their honeymoon who just can’t get enough of each other. Dante makes it no secret to Maria that he will not live a long life and she doesn’t like when he brings that up. He knows that he can’t be the man that Maria needs and he tries to give her an out. Maria and Dante definitely do not have the most conventional relationship. You can feel the happiness and love she feels towards Dante and her sadness as he leaves.
The first animal mauling deaths only register with Maria because it looked like an infant was taken from the scene. Maria calls Dante’s sister Christina, who just happens to have a baby. She was worried she had been attacked. Several more deaths happen before Maria begins to question the circumstances.
The Shape of Desire is a character driven plot. The story is only told through Maria’s view, often going through her day. There really isn’t too much action to the plot. In fact, she doesn’t even start questioning Dante until at least more than halfway through the book. The mystery of Dante and shape-shifting and the tension of how it all would play out kept me reading. The way she compares her life and secrets with that of an abused woman (her co-worker Katherine) weigh heavy on the tone of the story.
Maria grows as a character as the story moves along. She starts as kind of a loner then moves on to make friends with some of her co-workers. She learns that her lies haven’t always been enough, that her actions belied appearances. She makes a firm decision about her future and with a better understanding of Dante.
Overall, I was deeply enthralled by the story of Maria and Dante. The Shape of Desire was a different and refreshing take on the shape-shifter myth and I can’t wait to see what is next. However, I did feel there were questions left unanswered and I hope Still Life with Shapeshifter answers at least one of those questions.
“Great, then I won’t worry anymore,” he says. “What else have you been doing? How’s work?”
When we’re together, when he’s actually in my presence, Dante doesn’t ask me many questions. He doesn’t seem that interested in my job, and only listens out of politeness to my tales about family activities or shopping expeditions. But when he’s gone, when I’m out of sight, out of reach, he’s filled with curiosity. What did you have for breakfast? What did your mom say? Did you get that travel account? I’m not fooled; I know he doesn’t really care about those details. He’s just trying to fill in all the colors for the image of me he carries in his head. He wants to make me real. I feel so far away I could be imaginary; he wants to give me weight and substance and flavor. He wants to devour me.
I know, because that’s exactly how I feel about him.
The Shifting Circle Series:
FTC Advisory: Penguin/Roc provided me with a copy of The Shape of Desire. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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