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 Dead 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.
In 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?