Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Aubrey was a gifted student of the fine art of wizardry. The more knowledge he acquired, the more he wanted to learn. When his former master found out he couldn’t teach him anything new he sent Aubrey to another master – a shape-changer Glyrenden, one wizard of a kind specializing in transmogrification. From him, Aubrey expected to discover the secret of long-lost spells and the mysteries of that branch of arcane magic few dared to specialize in. But there was one discovery he never expected, a mystery so alluring that he risked everything to solve it. Her name was Lilith. She was beautiful, she was strange, she wasn’t who she seemed to be. She was the Shape-Changer’s Wife. Among other things.
What I liked:
After the disappointing “Archangel” I was pretty wary of reading another Shinn book. If only I knew what a pleasant surprise was waiting for me! The Shape-Changer’s Wife was a short novel or a longer novella but beautifully crafted. Really beautifully. I’ve learned it was actually Shinn’s debut and I thought ‘wow’ instantly.
The story was as simple as any fairy tale and simply told but really charming. A young magician, Aubrey, was sent to a new tutor, the famous shape-changer Glyrenden, to learn transmogrification. His former master couldn’t teach him anything new so he decided to let the young man gather more experience and see the world. Still he warned him about Glyrenden, his new teacher, who was a dangerous, sneaky fellow.
Aubrey soon found out that Glyrenden was living in the middle of the forest in a vast, crumbling fortress overrun with vines and drowning in dust. What’s more, nobody in the town nearby wanted to have anything in common with Glyenden, his servants or his strange lady wife even if they were relatively rich, shopped at the local market and always paid their dues.
Aubrey’s growing love for Glyrenden’s wife led him slowly to realize the truth. I admit it wasn’t difficult to guess the real identity of Lilith or her servants but it was a pleasure to see Aubrey coming to the right conclusion while developing a kind of mesmerizing relationship with the whole household and maturing quite a bit. I also loved that the author didn’t shrink from pondering about the nature of evil and true love.
What I didn’t like
This novel played with the aspects of metamorphosis made famous by Greek and Roman mythology. Explaining how these metamorphoses occur would be the major spoiler so I won’t say any more on that subject. If you read Ovid you’ll have no difficulties with guessing the truth. It was also the main weakness of the story – most of it hinges on a mystery that isn’t all that mysterious, the aforementioned transformations, but, as it does deal interestingly with concepts of good and evil I was able to forgive it the lack of thrill.
A nice, short fairy tale with some twists, narrated in a very pleasant voice. Charming but hardly surprising. You see? No freaking angels, no damsels in distress too stubborn to think logically and I am as meek as a little lamb!