this is the 115th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books
Shapechanger and The Song Of Homana by Jennifer Roberson, DAW Books, March 2001 paperback omnibus: 2 novels - fantasy – 1st and 2nd novels in the Cheysuli series
“In 1979, sick to death of waiting for books by my favorite authors, I decided to take a shot at writing my own fantasy novel.”
– Jennifer Robinson, from the introduction
So she wrote the first book in this series, Shapechanger which since it’s first publication has been very popular. Most of the books in this series have long been out of print so DAW has collected the eight novels into four Omnibus editions, this being Omnibus One.
“Welcome to the world of the Cheysuli, [pronounced Chay-SOO-li] a race of people gifted with the ability to shift their shapes into animal form at will and the divine prophecy that orders their lives as well as the survival of a realm.”
The first book sets the stage, introduces the major concepts and the protagonist who will continue into the third book (and his progeny on through the series). The “laws” governing the shape changing ability of the Cheysuli are logical and believable within the fantasy framework of the books. There’s something alluring about the ability to transform into the shape (with human intelligence and personal experience and memory intact) of an animal.
Robinson does a nice job of portraying the fear and sometimes hatred directed at the Cheysuli by non-magical people. As ever, those who are different are feared. I found myself caring about several of the characters, both Cheysuli and human. The story is that of Alix, daughter of a Cheysuli father and human mother. As a result of fear, politics and a mentally unbalanced king, the Cheysuli have been a hunted race, most of their number slain or fled. Alix has been raised as a princess but at puberty she feels the call of Cheysuli magic in her blood. Whether she chooses to stay with the humans or go to the Cheysuli, she will betray half of her heritage. Then too there is a prophecy (I’m being vague so as not to give a spoiler), which seems to have a way of driving events.
The second novel in the series, The Song Of Homana, picks up the story five years later. It’s just as engaging and more interesting characters are added, with the larger picture of war, politics and a spreading evil coming into focus.
I was lamenting last post about the trend in fantasy, especially short fantasy, toward a dark, horror (or at least horrific) atmosphere and story. While these novels are not exclusively happy-happy-joy-joy, they are certainly not twisted cesspools of horror. This is a fascinating world where the reader might want to live (I know I wouldn’t mind). Plus, who wouldn’t like to be able to shape-shift into an animal?
Well written with interesting characters and an intriguing premise, these are good fantasy novels with strong world building. This is a series I really enjoy. I’m glad I stumbled across it in omnibus form while having a browse at the bookstore. Four of these omnibus paperbacks were published, covering the whole series. Nice stuff.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase