________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 40. . . .June 18, 2010



Holly Bennett.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
244 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-158-6.

Grades 5-10 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Janet Johnson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Oran Remembers

How is it that people did not shudder at first sight of him, go cold with gooseflesh or faint with premonition?

But I have seen it so often--it is only to those who know what he is that the evil is so plainly in view. But I will always regret it. For he marked her that day, marked her as surely as he tuned the mead in my goblet to mud. Every person on his path he sorts into one of two categories: those who are of no use to him, and those he may turn to his own ends. Sive had unwittingly caught his eye. And now he bent his mind upon her, and I could only pray that he would find no hold there for his dark dreams.

And what of it, if she did not understand the risk she took with her kindness to me? It was along since anyone had paid me any mind at all. Sive placed herself between me and the Dark Manís displeasure. I will never forget that.

Shapeshifter is both a fantasy and a love story based on the lives of legendary heroes from Celtic mythology. In this story, the reader will follow the life of Sive, the first wife of Finn mac Cumhail. The author, mindful that not everyone will know the stories of Irish mythology, includes a version of this legend in the book. However, readers without any background knowledge will find this a fast paced and exciting story. The heroine of the story has two special abilities, shape shifting and a magical singing voice that allows her to control her listenersí moods. Unfortunately, her special talents have attracted the attention of a powerful and evil druid, Far Doirche, who becomes obsessed with marrying Sive in order to control her voice. Siveís parents are helpless to save her, and she has to flee her home in the shape of a deer.

    The story moves along at a fast pace that matches the frenzied pursuit of the hunted deer in the two realms that coexist in ancient Ireland. Tir na nOg and the mortal world are invisible to each other, but Sive finds a way to flee to the mortal world. While Far Doirche plots and schemes and threatens Siveís family with harm to learn her whereabouts in order to marry her, Sive escapes in her deer form and looks for the home of Finn mac Cumhail.

     One evening, Sive is spotted by Finn while he is out hunting with some of his men, and his intuition tells him that this is no ordinary deer. Sive and Finn fall in love, marry, and are happy until the sorcerer tricks Sive into leaving the safety of Finnís property. This time, however, she does not get away as she is pregnant.

     The characters in this book, even the deities, speak naturally and true to their roles in either world. While there are many adults in this book, Sive remains immortal and an ageless young and beautiful woman. One of the more interesting characters in the book is Grian, Siveís mother. Like many mother-daughter relationships, there is some conflict that adolescent readers will probably understand, especially when Sive reaches adolescence and discovers an interest in men. These family dynamics contribute to the believability of the plot and a liking for the heroine whose human frailties readers will relate to.

    Readers who are familiar with the reworking of traditional tales will be in for a treat because the author pays more attention to character development that spinning out the details of familiar stories, and the tale is told in a natural relaxed style.

   Suspense continues to build up even after the birth of Siveís baby, and the story leaves no loose ends. This is a great story, and one I have to praise highly to anyone who enjoys the type of high fantasy which brings out the truly bright and noble in every station of life.

Highly Recommended.

Janet Johnson instructs in the library technician program at Red River College in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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