May 8, 2012

The Shifter, by Janice Hardy

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Intended Age-Group: 10+
Issues of Violence: physical injuries, magic-related violence, blackmail, some torture-like scenes.
Intimacy Level: Mild affection
Swearing: none
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

The cover looks like snow and light. Even more delightful was the description on the back cover--something new. A story that didn't sound generic.

Janice Hardy weaves a tale about 15-year-old Nya the Shifter. Nya is a bold, brave, protective older sister who has the ability to shift pain from someone and transfer it into someone else. She's always wanted to be a Healer, but Healers transfer pain into a giant slab of a magical stone called pynvium instead of people. Nya is a freak on her home island of Geveg because of her unusual skill. She can be blackmailed and abused if anyone with power finds out that she can put pain into people instead of the Slab. And this is just what the people with power seek to do when Nya makes a fatal mistake.

Characters: *****
Nya's character acted her age and it was interesting to watch the changes her character took as she was further and further blackmailed. How far would she go to save her sister? Were her choices ethical? What would you have done in her situation? I love her's spunk and loyalty to her friends and family. She sees the whole picture of things and addresses all issues instead of just her initial goal. This is admirable, but at the same time she often finds herself biting of much more than she can chew. 

Nya is a likeable character with her own flaws. She desires to do good things, but is constantly thrust in difficult situations with no clear-cut-right answer. When Healers from the League of Healers start disappearing on the brink of war, Nya's focus is turned to the safety of her sister, Tali, a Healer who lives and trains at the League. When Tali is reported missing, chaos strikes. Not only is Nya thrust into the thick of things, but her heart won't allow her to just save her sister. She wants to uncover the answer to all the disappearances. She allows nothing to stop her. Not until the pain of her island is relieved. 

I love first-person books because I feel more in the head of the character, but it was a squeeze with Nya. The development was limited, but what really solidified the "flat" feel of characterization was the lack of development in side characters. I wanted to know more about the cute boy and his family, more about Tali and why she didn't try to help Nya from dying of starvation more than she did. Characterization is the main story-driver for me and The Shifter just didn't leave me feeling like I'd read about a real human being (even though it's fiction).
Plot: *****
I enjoyed this book--it was a quick and fast-paced read, though it wasn't a top-notch page-turner. Toward the end as the action rose, too many "surprises" popped up to save the day. Nya discovered more and more secret skills that happened to fit the exact need for the current crisis. They seemed like cop-outs for the author when she didn't know how to handle the situation. These different skills would have been more believable and, in my opinion, appropriate had they been introduced at times other than the middle of the crises.

Spiritual Content: *****
The "deities" throughout the novels are called Saints. The way Nya thinks of them refers to multiple saints, kind of like the Greek gods. She prays to different ones for luck, guidance, healing, etc. The prayers or mentions of saints are frequent throughout the book, though nothing ever really comes from her prayers. Her relationship with the deities was nonexistent. They were made of stone and acted like stone, typical of all gods apart from the Living God.

Other: There's not much in this novel that I'd label as "inappropriate". There's a brief mention about Nya kicking a man who had pinched her "nowhere proper". There's also insinuation about show-girls and possible prostitution, but nothing is said flat-out. I don't think there's anything worth fussing over.

Overall Recommendation:
I recommend this book, particularly for its originality and thought-provoking aspects. It brings up a lot of questions about pain, human suffering, and sacrifice. It's appropriate for the intended age group (10 and up). Put that fascinating cover on your shelf!

Violence Level: ***

Romance Level: **
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: ***
Story Depth Level: ***
Recommendation: ****

For a more detailed explanation of the above ratings, visit the 6-Point Nutshell post.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at