Magical, mystical shapeshifters…do we share the love?

May 12, 2008 at 6:00 am (General, Lori Devoti) (, , , , )

My first post here I talked about the three types of shifters as I see them…the realist (bones a popping), the illusionist (just appears they are shifting) and the magical (presto chango). Today I’m going to talk a bit more about the last one, and go a bit more in depth in one particular aspect of this type–the magical shifters who need magic outside of themselves to actually perform the shift.

In For a Few Demons More, urban fantasyDead Witch Walking, Kim Harrison (one of my favorite authors) has her main character turn herself into a mink via magic. In A Few Demon’s More, there’s an ancient artifact that is changing humans into werewolves–not a good thing since these humans have no idea how to deal with this change. My friend Summer Devon in her book Revealing Skills created a type of being called Morphlanges who can shift into any type of animal they like as long as they ingest some bit of the animal–hair, etc. Her hero chooses to shift to a rat to escape prison early on in the book (a handy skill in that situation), but once his “cycle” as a rat is over he can pick yet another animal, and another, and another.

These kind of shiftings make for a different kind of story for me, than what we think of when we say shapeshifter. I think the main difference is the character isn’t really the animal–they don’t have the same mental bond with whatever creature they become. They have that animal’s limitations and pluses while in the animal form, but when the shape goes away, for the most part, so do those aspects. They aren’t territorial like a wolf, or don’t go into heat like a cat–once back as a human.

Revealing Skills, erotic romanceIn other words the shapeshifting is more a device of the story than an actual part of the character. Which isn’t to say I don’t love stories that do this–I do. In some instances, I like them more than a traditional shifter story. When Rachel (from Harrison’s series) became a mink and was thrown into a rat fight she was still Rachel the human with all her thoughts and the “are you kidding me?” reactions a human would face in such a situation. In Devon’s story, her shifter has no ability to shift back for a set period of time–he’s stuck as a rat. So, these stories open up a whole new world where there really are no limits (at least until the writer sets them).

So, what about you? Do you like these kinds of shifters as much as the more traditional type? Any books you can think of that use them you’d recommend? Or are you a were girl/guy all the way?



  1. Lori Devoti, paranormal romance and urban fantasy author » Blog Archive » Blogging over at Shapeshifter romance today… said,

    […] talking about shapeshifters who use some kind of magic, a tool, spell, etc. to shift and how they are different from shapeshifters who just ARE […]

  2. Becky said,

    I really enjoy it when authors do give a character the ability to change but to not take on that animal’s persona. Like you said about Rachel and the rat fight–she is still Rachel trying to learn how to use this new body she has truned into. She doesn’t automatically know her own strenths and weaknesses as a mink like a werewolf character knows about their abilities.
    It makes for a unique view of the world when you put a “human” into the body of another animal and then have them learn how to use that animals skills.

  3. Jackie said,

    Another good example in the Kim Harrison novels is in Fistful of Charms, in order to save Nick, she uses a black curse to turn into a wolf and we see how she copes (and in turn ends up loving) the ability to turn into a wolf. She’s not crazy about having to deal with the werewolf society, but she’s willing to learn how to live with it as well.

    I love all types of shifter ideologies because it adds a whole new level to the psychological nuances for the character.

  4. Darla said,

    I love reading new and inventive ways to shift, it gives it a fresh perspective…as you said its all up to the Author! My only problem is keeping each book or series straight within my own mind sometimes! LOL

  5. AJ said,

    As much as I love weres, I love the magical aspect of shape shifting as well. Depending on the book and how the author has built their world, I can get into just about any paranormal element. For me, reading things that are unique is what is key for me. That being said, I find I enjoy books that feature weres just as much as I love the books that have magical elements that give people the ablities to shift.

  6. Marcia Colette said,

    Give me realism. I like it when the world is as close to our reality as possible. So close, in fact, that you can both touch and taste it. I don’t mind magical elements so much, depending upon the creature. But when it comes to shifters, it’s that bone popping that makes the writer’s world all the more believable. I think that’s why the changing scene in An American Werewolf in London still resonates with me to this day. 😉

  7. Michele Hauf said,

    Never thought about this before, but I think I do favor a story that, after the person has shifted, they are still human and have to adjust to ‘using’ the animal body they’ve shifted into.
    In my werewolf stories, when my weres shift they are all animal with remnants of the human mind. But the man never remembers what he did as the animal.
    I think there are so many ways you can go with shifters. That’s what makes them so interesting to read!

  8. Rebecca York said,

    Hum. I’ve never a story where the shift was “magic.” And with my Marshal men, they all retain their human personas when they are in wolf form.

    But I think the more different kinds of shifter books there are, the better. The problem would come if some reviewer said, “That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.”

    I have a friend who can’t accept “magic” or “fantasy” as a solution to a problem in a book. She’s just too tied to reality. So the magic aspec wouldn’t work for her. But my books wouldn’t either. I’d put a grin here, but I don’t know where to finde the emotocons.


  9. kate r said,

    I have another shape-shifting story I completely forgot to mention when you asked about mine because the character stays so entirely himself when he’s a human or a dragon. (Knight’s Challenge, also a Summer book)

    I think I usually like stories where the characters are impeded by their creature’s form–like the weres who can’t quite think like a human when they’re in the other shape.

  10. Lori Devoti said,

    I like both types too, but I’m a sucker for magic so am really attracted to one where the shifting is more of a tool.
    Jackie, I thought the black curse scene was excellent.
    You know one you don’t see in fiction so much anymore, but used to be used in ancient myth a lot is where a god or witch shifts someone as a punishment or some other reason. This happened in Stardust when the witch turned the peasant into a goat. That’s fun too–well, for the reader. 🙂 But I’ve never read a book (that I can remember) where the person this happened to was a POV character…

  11. Savanna Kougar said,

    I love all kinds of shifters and weres. Although when I write my onw, so far, they always retain their human nature along with their animal nature. Personally, I like the whole genetic-creation aspect of creating shapeshifters.

  12. rainedelight said,

    Hi, I love your posts on shifting. Veryinformative and insightful. I have 2 summer shifter stories and I use the shifting as more as a magical th ing. In one, the hero always knew he was a dragon shifter and his whole family are shifters of some degree. His twin brother is a wolf shifter and loves feeling the chase of a wolf and all that.

    I love Kim’s books as she delivers shifting in a new and fresh way that appeals to me. I find I love themagical version over anything else but am willing to give time to those traditional ones too.

    Just my two cents. 🙂


  13. Teresadamario said,

    I like both types, but I like the ones who take on the instinct, mostly because i like the difference from reality. But I’ve read a few where it’s a magickal change, and I actually have a character in mind for a possible story that does something very similar, so you’ve definitely made me think. 😀

  14. Greta said,

    I’m fairly new to paranormal romances & shapeshifter romances, the only onces I’ve read are strictly were he/she. The book by Kim Harrison looks interesting, which is enough to add to my TBB list.

  15. Lori Devoti said,

    Thanks, Raine! What is a “summer shifter?”
    Greta, Kim Harrison’s books are romances; they’re urban fantasy–so no happily ever after and the emphasis isn’t on a romance. They are, however, excellent. 🙂 Kelley Armstrong is another favorite author of mine. Her first book, Bitten, was also an urban fantasy, but had a lot more romance in it and is a great werewolf book.
    Check them both out!!

  16. Rachel said,

    I really like all kinds of shifters. It doesn’t matter how they do it to me. I am more interested in the flow of the story and how it is written. Oh and the plot. Personally, I read for sheer enjoyment so don’t try to over analyiz the componants that much. Sure if something doesn’t flow with the rest of the story and sticks out like a sore thumb, then I may notice. LOL
    Great question, it is neat to see what everybody else thinks!

  17. *lizzie starr said,

    I enjoy all types of shifters from purely natural to magical. What’s important is that the style and mythos of the shifting is believable…both to the characters and to the readers.

  18. bunnyb said,

    I like all kinds of shifters. It doesn’t really matter which shifter they are as long as the story is well-written. But if I were to imagine myself to be a shifter, I’d like to be one that still thinks as a human in an animal body.

  19. rainedelight said,

    Hi Lori D. 🙂

    Sorry I should have said Ihave two shifter stories coming out: One on July 4th which a dragon Shifter and anotherin October which is a werewolf/empath shifter story. 🙂

    Can you chalk it up to a million things goingon at once in myhead. lol

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