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This month's review concerns the first novel by a well-known author in the Fantasy genre; a prolific author, she has also penned the occasional historical novel, and even a Romance novel. She has also become a favorite of Yours Truly and has been reviewed here, many times in the past (a few now lost, unfortunately). This review, however, concerns her first novel. I think lovers of Fantasy, those well-versed in the genre, as well as those new to the field, will enjoy this offering. Do read on.



Jennifer Roberson

Shapechangers concerns Alix, a simple girl, bored with her life as a farmer's daughter, who longs for nothing more than the affections of her Prince, Carillon. She would like nothing better than to be taken in as his wife, and made a Princess, when his uncle Shaine (otherwise known as the Mujhar--that is, a kind of king or prince) sees fit to hand Carillon his seat. In the process, if she can, Alix intends to convince him to do away with his vile qu'mahlin (a kind of ethnic cleansing) against the Cheysuli: a race of shapechangers, long outcast from and feared by the people of Homana-Mujhar.

It is not until Alix and Carillon fall into Cheysuli hands hat Alix's confidence over her view of the Cheysuli, and Shaine's qu'mahlin leaves her; that she comes to fear te Cheysuli as the vile monsters the Shaine has long named them.

But she is to find out she and her people are wrong, in many things. The first thing she learns shocks her beyond all belief: she is not Homanan, but Cheysuli, being the daughter of a union between a Cheysuli warrior and the granddaughter of the Mujhar himself. Knowing this, the Cheysuli take Alix into their circle and teach her of their Tahlmorra--fate--and the prophecy to which they have dedicated their lives. She is settled into the hands of the clan's leader, Duncan, and she fights, and is stubborn, and refuses to listen.

The prophecy, and the following of it, is all. And try as he might, Duncan can do nothing to convince her of it. So it is her stubborn streak that will cause her to stumble, to beg asylum from the ignorant Homanans, only to find they name her Shapechanger Witch. Confused, she turns to the only one she can: Carillon takes her to his father, where she learns that what Duncan said, was true. Disbelieving, she goes to Shaine, only to be denied her heritage, and to be threatened for her mother's rebellion. And the twists and turns only get more jumbled, around her.

Shapechangers was a good attempt, for a first novel. Having read others of Ms. Roberson's titles, I can say those works far exceed this first, but Shapechangers was a good read. It has all the normal trappings one comes to expect from a Fantasy novel: A well-developed world, wizards, an overhealming mythology and history, strange creatures, humans, love, struggle, war, magic. Personally, I found the story of the Cheysuli and their struggle to remain a race through Shaine's qu'mahlin--and the story of Carillon too, and his prejudice toward, and eventual acceptance of, the Cheysuli, and his struggle to keep Homana-Mujhar on its feet, the real page-turner. I found that much more interesting than Alix's struggles to learn to deal with fate, and truthfully, I shared Finn, Duncan, and Carillon's opinion of the stubborn, infuriating woman! But for the story of the Cheysuli alone, it is worth the work Ms. Roberson put into it. If you are a fan of Fantasy, or just getting your feet wet, in the genre, I would highly recommend Shapechangers. It is not the best I've read, but I think it is a good novel, and the uncertain position in which Ms. Roberson places her Cheysuli warriors and their prince promises more intrigue for the following novels. The series currently stands at eight novels, but according to her website, Ms. Roberson has recently sold another Cheysuli series to her publishers. So if you are thinking of looking into her works, now would be the time, and Shapechangers the ideal place to start.


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