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The Shape of Desire: A Shifting Circle Novel    by Sharon Shinn order for
Shape of Desire
by Sharon Shinn
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have long enjoyed Sharon Shinn's many fantasy series -especially her Samaria and Twelve Houses novels - and standalones like Heart of Gold. Now she gives her fans something rather different in The Shape of Desire. It's a modern urban fantasy with a shape-shifter focus, but it's different from the usual were fare in its credibility and empathy.

The story is told from the perspective of a modern woman, who is perfectly normal, aside from her need to hide the great romance in her life from friends and family. For Maria's lover, Dante, is a shape-shifter, from a family of shape-shifters. He has no control over his changes - or of the bestial form he will take - and they are increasing in frequency so that he is rarely with Maria. He leaves her when he feels a change coming, and returns when he knows he will have a brief period of normality.

Not much of a life for Maria, you think? She would probably agree but cannot help herself. She only feels fully alive when she is with him. She compares her feelings about her time with Dante to the words in a Christina Rossetti poem - 'Because the birthday of my life / Is come, my love is come to me.' Maria has met Dante's sister Christina and brother William. The latter changes to a wolf or dog and has always spent more time animal than human. Christina is human except for a few days each month.

Though there have been ups and downs in Maria and Dante's relationship, it has been steady for years. Now there are two major changes. Christina has a baby, Lizzie, whom Maria adores at first sight. And there are news reports of bizarre bestial killings of people in different areas. Maria starts to wonder if Dante might be involved. Also complicating her life is a developing friendship with a co-worker who is abused by her husband, and another co-worker's learning of her secret.

The killer's identity, once discovered, comes as a shock to Maria and changes her life forever. In The Shape of Desire: A Shifting Circle Novel, Sharon Shinn writes empathetically of a great love that survives despite huge challenges. I'm looking forward to more in this new series.

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