Karadel is a vet who connects well with her animals. Why? Because she's shifted into their forms at one point or another. The third book in this series can be read as a standalone. Karadel aka Kara lives alone far away from everyone else. She lives in the countryside in Illinois because she shifts erratically and she never knows what animal she will shift into. She's a shifter through her parents' bloodlines.
This world of shifters created by Ms. Shinn is bleak. Shifters don't last long in this world. They die not because they are hunted. Not because they fight with each other, but because their body just can't take the stress of it all and it gives out. This interpretation of shifters actually makes more sense than the romantic mythology of living a long life and super healing.
This story is more than just about Kara finding a lover and helping friends in need. It's about acceptance. This is what I like about Ms. Shinn's stories. For the most part, they are brutal reminders that people who are different don't fit in. And many times, people who are different just want to be normal. They want to be ordinary and have a life like everyone else. This is clearly shone through the eyes of Kara who hates herself to some extend.
This is sad because Kara can't accept her unique ability and wants to exterminate it. Based on her life experiences, it is perfectly understandable. Then Ms. Shinn does something sneaky. She always hooks me this way and rips out my heart before I know what's happening. She does it in two folds. She does it through her dialog and the relationship she builds between the characters and the characters to the readers.
Kara isn't a superhero. She's not a kick ass heroine. In fact, she's a wallflower for the most part and identifies as a Country Mouse. Her fears are real. Her wants are so simple yet unobtainable for her. She's the kind of friend who will be loyal and help when things get bad. So when a new man comes into her life, she's wary. Joe's been knocked a few times in a hard manner and yet he still manages to show Kara something she never thought of.Something occurs to him; he sets the beer down and leans forward. "So you resent all the time you spend in animal shape," he [Joe] says.
"I do." [Kara]
"But maybe you're thinking about it the wrong way. What if you were born to be an animal? What if that was your natural state? And all the time you're human - that's the special time? That's the gift?"
This right here is what kills me about Ms. Shinn and why I come back to her over and over again. Her ability to make a huge paradigm shift in a succinct and elegant manner. This out of the box thinking is what really impresses me. There are several other instances where Ms. Shinn's observations on human nature comes through in her character's voices. The one which felt like a brutal thrust into the heart nearly brought me to tears. On Joe explaining how his marriage fell apart it's better read than explained.
"I just made her miserable. I remember coming home one day, a little earlier than she expected. She had some music on and she was dancing across the living room, laughing and shaking her butt. She saw me and all the joy went out of her face. I said, 'Hey, I like to dance! Let's put on some more albums!' but she just shook her head and turned off the stereo. I think that's when I knew we'd gone too far down that road to ever get back". (p. 183)
This vivid imagery just eviscerates me. When a person loves another one so much and wants to share in their joy only to find out their mere existence makes the one they love drain of joy, how does this not hurt? Ms. Shinn's gift of being able to paint a picture so clearly on how two people are no longer in love is demonstrated over and over again in many of her books. This one is no different and each time, it catches me off guard.
This urban fantasy is for those who enjoy stories where love does not always triumph. Those who like their fiction mixed with reality.