The Shape-Changer’s Wife (Sharon Shinn)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Shape-Changer’s Wife is a traditional, almost fairytale-esque fantasy. It wasn’t a bad book by any means, but it felt a little old fashioned, the story seemed a bit simplistic, the characters seemed a little one dimensional, and the setting was a little flat. The protagonist is quite passive and almost seems lost throughout most of the book until the conclusion. This is a short book and yet it still feels padded for length. I really can’t recommend this; it wasn’t terrible, but there just isn’t anything exceptional about it that other authors don’t consistently do better.

Greater Detail:
Aubrey is an accomplished apprentice wizard who is sent to mentor with a new master who is an expert on the dark art of shape changing. His new master, Glyrenden, is mysterious and strange, as is his household. Aubrey soon becomes captivated by his master’s wife, Lilith, and seeks to uncover the mystery of why everything in the household is so odd.

The premise is promising, and I think with a bit more work it could become a good fantasy story, but there really isn’t enough included in this iteration for it to be that interesting. The protagonist is a bit of a passive sad sack who mostly just follows orders, and the supporting cast are very thin on character at all other than being sort of weird. There are only a few places the characters go to in the course of the story, and all of them are uninteresting.

Much of the story is invested in the budding romance between the protagonist and Lilith, but it wasn’t really a relationship that I found myself investing in at all. Aubrey is very shallow and attracted to pretty much every woman he meets, while Lilith is emotionless and cold, so their relationship is pretty much entirely one-sided until very late in the book. Aubrey came off more like a creepy stalker to me than a heroic romantic figure, and Lilith came off as completely uncaring and unsympathetic.

The budding rivalry between Aubrey and Glyrenden is equally bad. The rationale for Aubrey initially studying with Glyrenden makes very little sense, and in general Glyrenden’s motives (other than just being a jerk) seem much more motivated by the demands of the story than any possible internal impetus. With a little bit less laziness on the part of the author, this story really could have worked out; the basics are there, and I didn’t hate reading it at any point, but the execution just wasn’t there.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
I prefer a grander, more sophisticated setting for fantasy in general. I would consider Raymond Feist’s Magician: Apprentice to pretty much do everything this book was going for better than this book does.

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