After reading Mistwood, by Leah Cypess, and loving it, I vaguely set out to read other shapeshiter books. And happily, Shapeshifter's Quest, by Dena Landon (Penguin, 2005, older middle grade/younger YA, 182 pages) was close at hand in my local library.
Syanthe has grown up imprisoned in a forest, where all her shapeshifting kind have been trapped by the king and the powerful, magic wielding, priesthood that serves him. But for Syanthe, the imprisonment is illusory. She alone was hidden before she could be tattooed with the magical mark that kills any shapeshifter who tries to escape. Now the forest is dying, and her own mother is deathly ill. And Syanthe is the only one who can venture into the world beyond, to find a cure.
It is a dangerous journey. The priesthood is powerful, evil, and determined that the only magics in the realm should be under their control--death, or worse, awaits if she is caught. But fate is kind to her, and soon her path crosses with that of Jerel, a young man who is much more than he seems. He, too, has a mission--and a magic--of his own.
Shapeshifter's Quest is a lovely fast read, and I enjoyed the characters and their magics considerably. Syanthe is a nicely brave and compassionate heroine, and the story flows briskly and coherently. It's only main flaw is that it rather lacks subtlety--a huge suspension of disbelief is required to swallow Jerel's appearance in Syanthe's life. It's a tremendous coincidence that he should be the one to find her curled up by the side of the road--not only is he the perfect person to help her achieve her own goals, he is also soon to become more than just a helpful acquaintance...It made it a bit hard for me to really believe this story.
That being said, this is one I'd give in a sec to my 12 year-old self. I would have loved it to pieces. My adult self, however, loves Mistwood more--more tricksy, and more emotional punch. Like Mistwood, this was a debut novel; I went looking to see if Landon had any more books, because I enjoyed this one, but she doesn't seem too...
(The cover makes Shapeshifter's Quest look a lot older (reader-wise) than it is--there's some violence, but nothing dire, and the romance is understated).
Anyone have any favorite shapeshifter books to recommend for me to read next?