Becky's Reviews > The Shifter

The Shifter by Janice Hardy
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's review
Apr 01, 10

bookshelves: mg-fantasy
Read from January 30 to March 31, 2010

I really liked this book! It reminded me a bit of Active Voice favorite Fly By Night, actually (in a good way, that is). The plot is similarly caught up in intrigue and the politics of Nya’s world: someone is hiding the pynvium shortage, but why? Who is starting riots and why? Why are people interested in Nya’s talent, and what’s happening to the missing apprentices? As it happens, though, I’d also say the book’s biggest weakness is that some of the intrigue gets confusing. There are three separate antagonistic forces, sometimes working together and sometimes not (and Nya doesn’t always know if they are or not), some of them working for the Duke and some against him, so it was mildly difficult to keep straight who was after what and why.

All this intrigue is set against some very strong worldbuilding. The magic of healing is interesting (and gets more so as the book goes on and Nya discovers other facets of her abilities), and the culture of her world is really fascinating. Nya’s country is occupied by a foreign military, and has been for long enough that outsiders have moved in and made it theirs (kicking the native-born citizens out of the best houses, taking the best jobs, etc). All the main characters still remember the invasion (and most lost loved ones during it); through the whole book there are simmering undercurrents of both anger and fear. The characters want the outsiders gone, but also know they were crushed when they fought before. The dynamics are really well presented.

Just a few other thoughts on this one. The book was listed as teen, but read more as middle grade to me, in terms of tone (aside from a few gruesome moments) — the writing is rich but Nya came across as pretty young. Her character development is great, though. She’s not naïve at the outset, but she faces increasingly morally grey questions and is forced to find answers, and sometimes she makes choices I didn’t expect as she learns how to weigh consequences.

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