forgotten books: Shapechanger’s Song

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 Roberson, from the introduction

Shapechanger's Song

Omnibus 1 of 4, the Shapechanger series

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.

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The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in fantasy, Friday Forgotten Book, Review and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to forgotten books: Shapechanger’s Song

  1. Interesting review. Jennifer Roberson is an author who I’ve long heard of but never read. I do agree that there is an appeal in the shape changer idea, be it in the fantasy realm like this book talks about or even the SF realm as represented by Odo in DS9. At least it is romantic as an idea when the person can do so at will vs. the “curse” aspect like in stories like Ladyhawke.

  2. I read some of the early books years back. It’s been awhile. May have to try more.

  3. cgramlich says:

    I think I have a couple around here. Will have to look. Not from this series, I don’t think.

  4. Richard says:

    This is a series I loved when I first read it, and began re-reading it two years ago and then got sidetracked, as so often happens. I really should get back to it!

  5. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I’ve got to admit that being a shapechanger does not hold any appeal to me. Jackie reads a lot of paranormal romantic suspense books with that theme, however.

  6. Richard says:

    Of course, Jeff, this isn’t paranormal romantic suspense, it’s straight fantasy. Still, not wanting to be a shapeshifter would mean you probably wouldn’t enjoy this much.

  7. I have the first few books in this series. After your fine review, I’ll look for the others or pick up those omnibus volumes.

  8. gold price says:

    This fourth installment in the Chronicles of the Cheysuli series feels very reminiscent of the second book, The Song of Homana (Chronicles of the Cheysuli, Book 2) . Told in the first person, Niall’s story has always been one of my favorites in the series. For me, this is one of the most memorable novels in the entire series, and its exciting events are ones that I haven’t forgotten. Niall’s feelings and the way he stands outside of his family gives this book more of a coming-of-age feel than any of the others. The romantic liaisons described here, too, are among the most exciting, too. The story moves along at a fast pace and once again, this is a stronger novel than its predecessor. More details emerge about this land and its varied countries, peoples and cultures continuing to add more complexity to the storyline. Niall is one of my favorite characters though and I am really enjoying re-reading this series after so many years! It is exciting and quite fun!

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