Customer Review

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't take flight, January 31, 2010
This review is from: The Shapeshifters: The Kiesha'ra of the Den of Shadows (Paperback)
Having at least temporarily exhausted the whole vampire theme, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' second series turned its attention to shapeshifters. And while "The Shapeshifters: The Kiesha'ra of the Den of Shadows" is better than her first round of short novels, it still has an overabundance of angst, uneasy romance and build-as-you-go worldbuilding. The result flies as well as a snake.

In "Hawksong," the only way to end a war between the serpiente (snake shifters) and avians (bird shifters) is to marry the princess Danica Shardae to the heir Zane Cobriana. The two royal teens plot together, but as they uneasily unite their two peoples -- and reluctantly fall in love -- they must deal with some lurking assassins. And "Snakecharm" jumps ahead when someone tries to kill a pregnant Danica, and a vicious, powerful falcon named Syfka disrupts the alliance.

"Falcondance" bounces away to Nicias, the son of two falcon exiles. When his latent magic begins to awaken, his parents send him to the falcon city of Ahmik -- where he discovers a terrible secret that may disrupt the Wyvern's Court. And in "Wolfcry," Oliza Shardae Cobriana is torn between two potential suitors, one avian and one serpiente -- but when she's kidnapped, she faces terrible futures if she chooses either of them. And finally in "Wyvernhail," the serpiente/avian Hai sees terrible visions about the horrible future of the Wyvern's Court -- forcing her to determine her true self, and her true role.

It's pretty obvious in "The Shapeshifters: The Kiesha'ra of the Den of Shadows" that Amelia Atwater-Rhodes had been working hard on her writing. It's less "goth Mary Sue" than her early vampire novellas, and she attempts to sketch out an epic arrangement of different shapeshifting civilizations -- birds, wolves, tigers, snakes and various combinations of the above.

Unfortunately, it's also obvious that she needs a lot more seasoning. Each plot is pretty much straightforward, and it slowly oozes along in a cloud of angst and tepid romance, only for Atwater-Rhodes to pull a slapdash quickie ending out of her hat. And then it all collapses in each book's final chapters, as if Atwater-Rhodes had been making it up as she went along and had no idea how to untangle the various crises. Instead we get showdowns where nothing happens, anticlimaxes, and a character who randomly "turns lesbian" so Atwater-Rhodes won't have to address the love triangle she's set up.

And she has countless good ideas -- Ecl, werewolves, schemes, conspiracies, a segregated court, a united two-species court -- but just lets them marinate forever. Her writing is somewhat more pared-down in these books, but sometimes it also ends up being rather bland and lacking in feeling.

Fortunately her characters also also more intermittently interesting -- the conflicted Danica and the conflicted, fearful Nicius are perhaps the best of the characters, since one is an unhappy princess thrown into an alien culture and the other is an odd duck... er, falcon in a blended culture. Unfortunately, the male characters still tend to be elegant bad boys (until they turn into soppy romantics), Oliza comes off as a selfish whiner, and Hai is simply not very endearing.

"The Shapeshifters: The Kiesha'ra of the Den of Shadows" starts each novel solidly, but eventually they all collapse into unsatisfying, unbelievable endings. Just... no.
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