Tough Traveling: Shapeshifting
The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information. Compulsive list-maker that I am, I’m very excited to take part!
This week’s tour topic is: Shapeshifting
SHAPESHIFTING is frequent among both WERES and MAGIC USERS. The usual form taken is that of a WOLF, but lions, eagles, serpents, owls, and cats are common too. In all cases the rule is that the shapeshifter cannon stay too long in animal form without actually becoming that animal and losing touch with her/his human thoughts.
Brace yourself, because I’m definitely going to try making up for my poor performance in last week’s list. Luckily, I have a “Shapeshifters” shelf on Goodreads. I’m actually going to have to narrow down the titles a little…
Wolves and other Weres:
Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
I have to say, this week is much easier if you read urban fantasy. Werewolves are all over the place! And of course, one of my favorite UF series featuring werewolves is Mercy Thompson. Mercy hangs around a bunch of werewolves, and though she herself is a shapeshifter, she’s in fact a “Walker” who can turn into a coyote, a gift she inherited from her Native American father.
The Wolves of Mercy Falls (AKA Shiver Trilogy) by Maggie Stiefvater
This is a Young Adult series about a boy who walks and talks as human during the summer, but when the cold weather of winter comes he turns into a wolf and runs wild in the woods. Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house for years, but she never dreamed that one of them could be a human boy, and that she would end up falling in love with him.
Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan
This epic dark fantasy novel tells the myth of the werewolf as it has never been told before, weaving Nordic mythology into the tale. A prophecy prompts a viking king to raid a small village to kidnap a child to be his heir, but what he finds is not one but two infants — twins. Vali grows up as a prince while Feileg is raised in the wilds with wolves.
Siobhan Quinn series by Kathleen Tierney/Caitlín R. Kiernan
In this dark, twisted urban fantasy that can be seen as a satire of the genre, Siobhan Quinn was bitten by a vampire and a werewolf in the same night, turning her into some sort of new weird hybrid that she has self-coined a “Werepire”.
Oh man, when it comes to the different kinds of weres and lycanthropes, you just can’t beat the sheer variety in the Anita Blake series. Werewolves are a given of course, but there also wereleopards, wererats, werehyenas, werelions, weretigers, and even wereswans (oh my).
The Iron Wolves by Andy Remic
In response to a prophecy, an old general decides to reunite the warriors of old for what he believes will be a final battle against Orlana the Changer, an evil dark lady who is building a mud-orc army to take over the world. The Iron Wolves are a group of gritty anti-heroes who hold a terrible secret that has tortured them for decades. Let’s just say they only wish to be human again, and leave it at that…
The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice
Anne Rice does werewolves! A young reporter on assignment from the city gets attacked and bitten by a creature in the rural wilderness. Soon he finds himself transformed and experiencing the thrill of the wolf gift. Rice offers up a very interesting take on the mythos and origin story for werewolves.
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Lord Conall Maccon is an officer of the Bureau for Unnatural Registration and also the Alpha of a werewolf pack. Maccon and the protagonist Lady Alexia Tarabotti end up falling in love and ultimately get married at the end of this book.
Paranormal Creatures (Non-Weres):
Generation V series by M.L. Brennan
Protagonist Fortitude Scott’s friend Suzume Hollis is a kitsune, a mythological creature from Japanese folklore that can shift between human and fox forms. Rather than being a human who can shapeshift into an animal, kitsune are the other way around – they are actually female foxes that can assume human form.
The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney
This series features sirens and also Selkies, mythological creatures that live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. They must guard their pelts carefully while in human form, for without it they cannot shift back and return to the sea. This is what happens to a character’s mother, whose pelt was stolen.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
“The Others” are a group of unearthly entities which have vampires and shapeshifters among them. It is said the shifters adopted their chosen animal forms so long ago that they had come to also adopt some of the natural behaviors of those animals. These include wolves, crows, and hawks, to name just a few.
Midnight Thief by Liva Blackburne
The city of Forge is being harassed and constantly raided by the Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats. It is thought that the beasts are tamed mounts or companions of the raiders, but it turns out they are the Demon Riders themselves, a race of beings who can shapeshift between human and wildcat forms.
Magic Users and Shapeshifting by Magical Means:
The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
Atticus O’Sullivan is a two-thousand-year-old druid, capable of many different kinds of magic including several shapeshifting charms that allow him to shift into four animal different forms: a hound, a stag, an otter and an owl. Each creature has its own charm for this and Atticus’ amulets and charms are small enough that he can continue wearing the object while shapeshifted.
Skulk by Rosie Best
In this YA novel, protagonist Meg comes into the possession of a beautiful blue stone which allows her to shapeshift into a fox. In time, she learns of other groups of shapeshifters in London: The Skulk (fox shifters like her), the Horde (Rats), the Rabble (Butterflies), the Cluster (Spiders), and the Conspiracy (Ravens).
The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Currently reading this, and now I understand the reason for the owl on the cover. Gray Marshall is a student of magic, and one the spells he is most proud of — and that others are most impressed with — is his ability to shapeshift into (quite appropriately) a great grey owl.