Friday, March 02, 2007
Shapeshifter's Quest by Dena Landon
Students at OMS have loved Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, which is about shapeshifters, so I was anxious to read Shapeshifter's Quest to find another similar book that they might like. This is the first novel by Dena Landon, and she actually came to OMS and spoke to Pageturners Book Club earlier this year. She talked about getting the novel published and how hard it is to make a living as a writer, and she had the kids in the palm of her hand. The story is about Syanthe, a teenage shapeshifter who does not have the mark on her face that all of her fellow people do. The shapeshifters are confined to the forest, but Syanthe is able to leave because she is not marked. She is sent out of the forest to save her mother who needs medicine, and also to save her people because they see that the forest is slowly dying. However, the priests outside of the forests are evil and would kill her if they discovered her. So the book is the story of her journey to the capital city and her attempt to discover what is killing the forest. I found it to be an enjoyable book, but without the complexity that makes some fantasies so intriguing and real. It seemed to me like she could have used her shapeshifting to avoid most of the journey (at one point she flew really high so the priests didn't see her--why didn't she just fly really high all the way to the capital?) Also, the ending didn't wrap everything up and seemed to be setting us up for and easy sequel. I do think it's a fantasy that middle school kids will enjoy—especially 6th and 7th graders who may not be already deep into the works of other fantasy writers like Tamora Pierce and Philip Pullman.