When paranormal romance first rocketed into popularity, Vampires and Werewolves were the first of these creatures to claim top spots on the bestseller lists. I’ve got a very special place in my heart for vampires, but I’m actually pretty choosy about how they are portrayed. Werewolves never were my favorite of the paranormal creatures, but shape shifters in their many variations quickly captured my imagination. Something about the the way these creature’s deal with having an animalistic nature appeals to me and the cultures authors build up around them are tons of fun. But there is another reason shape shifters have a special place in my heart. I’ll get to that later.
So…, earlier this month I asked a couple of our reviewers to recommend their top three Shape Shifter novels. I thought it would be fun to compare what we came up with. Hope you enjoy it!
Serenity’s Top Three
I’m happy to share my three books for our little brilliant exchange here. All right, first off—I tend to gravitate away from the average paranormal creature. Take vampires and werewolves, for instance. I was actually in high school when Twilight ravaged all that was holy, chocolate and fanged. Sparkles have instilled a deep seated annoyance with anything packing a pair of fangs. Or shirtless weres—abs sans IQ scars my retina.
The Price of Fire by Linda Winstead Jones
Therefore, imagine my surprise when my mind was changed by: The Price of Fire by Linda Winstead Jones. Linda Winstead Jones managed to totally recreate the werewolf in her Anwyns. They are not ruled by their desires, nor do they continuously struggle with their nature. They have the serenity as a species normally attributed with fey—or in some cases, vampires. Even their culture, which is ruled primarily by a Queen—who happens to be the main character in this book—is incredibly colorful and rich.
This Queen meets her match in Caradon, the cat-shifter counter parts of Anwyns. He’s a pile of rebellion and sex and the book is great, but what really made this one of the greatest shifter books I’ve ever read had a lot to do with the intricate mythology and history between the two creatures. How their societies overlapped and differed—especially when it came to courtship. Definitely a recommend for anyone looking for something fresh! Vibrant! And smexy!
Duck by Kim Dare
The second book for me would have to be Kim Dare’s Duck! Luckily, I have already written a review, where I scream to the top of girly lungs about how shiny this book is. Very quickly, though—this book is an erotic retelling of the Ugly Duckling tale. It is BDSM toned paranormal romance of the most supple kind—but the best part are the birds! Kim Dare has created a unique race of bird shifters. Avians have a strict hierarchy that works very much like the food chain, so it is especially delicious when Raynard, a hawk-shifter and resident dominant, falls for Ori, an ugly duckling and submissive. Well done, unique and definitely worth giving it a read!
Aphrodite Hunt by Jennifer Blackstream
Lastly, I must mention Aphrodite Hunt by Jennifer Blackstream. An erotic toned romance, this is another one of those unique little stories where the mythology was used to seamlessly breathe some life into some very worn legends. First off, the werewolves are Greek. I know they’ve been painted as Greek before, but I found it especially interesting their packs operated around rituals steeped in those traditions. Well-written, smexy and two very well-drawn characters. Also, some very interesting things were done with what happens to werewolves after they die. Do they just die? Or do they rise again? Hmm…? (I’ll let you read and figure that one out.)
RK’s Top Three
BITTEN by Kelley Armstrong
One of the first shifter novels I read was Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN the beginning of her Otherworld Series. A friend loaned it to me and at first it was odd: a woman who is a werewolf? But Armstrong’s strong writing had me hooked. Reading about Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf struggling to live as a normal human, but lured to her nature was a thrill. Plus Armstrong had a gift for making it all seem so natural…the UF world is slowly revealed as if it were actually happening right next door.
TIGER EYE by Marjorie M. Liu
What’s not to like about successful, educated, worldly, and beautiful Dela Reese? OK, maybe you’d want to hate her for being so perfect, but you don’t. She deals in antiques and artifacts. She has a shifter named Hari as a love interest- a seven foot tall man who can shift into a Tiger as in part of an ancient race that used to dominate the world. Liu’s depictions of Beijing-as a city of history and contemporary transition really makes the novel stand out.
ALIEN TASTE by Wen Spencer
A boy called Magic Boy by the Native American tribe that raised him during his unnaturally long life. He is taken in by two wildlife experts while running feral with a wolf pack and later becomes private investigator and tracker, Ukiah Oregon. Oh, and by the way, he is an alien whose body splits off and breeds other animals. Not a shifter in the traditional way, but the non-traditional is what makes this series work. Throw in tightly paced mystery, alien conspiracy theory, and a tough as nails love interest FBI agent named Indigo Zhang and you know you’ve read something really and truly different. This is book one of a 4 book series now re released in e-book form.
Charlee’s Top Three
I love books in a series because they let you really get to know the world, so it is no surprise that my choices are exactly that.
Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton
My first book is Narcissus in Chains from Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Slayer Series. I started reading this series for Anita herself—a great kickass character.Then I fell in love with Jean Claude, the mysterious vampire. Narcissus in Chains is the book that made me fall in love with the wereleopards. In an earlier book Anita killed their leader and thereby became their pack Alpha. In this book she realizes how she has neglected this small, badly abused group. Their need for her, drags her into the world of the preternatural creatures more deeply than Jean Cluade, Master Vampire, and Richard, Werewolf Alpha, could never have done.
Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
My second book is Slave to Sensation from Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling series. This series grabbed me from the beginning. The Psy heroine of this book needs not only her hero, but the vibrancy and warmth of the Changlings. What Lucas and Sacha begin in this book, sends threads of change through their world and that is explored as the series progresses.
Maya of Space 1999
My final book, is no book at all. Here is where I confess that my love of shape shifters can be traced back in a clear line to Maya, a character introduced in the second season of Space 1999. This 70s British SciFi had a really silly premise but I loved the adventure and I loved Maya, played by actress Catherine Schell. She was beautiful, alien, and powerful. She could change into virtually any organic shape. My favorite was the tiger, but she often picked alien creatures unfamiliar to her human companions. In the picture below she poses with two of her favorite alternate-forms.