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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
The Shapeshifters: The Kiesha'ra of the Den of Shadows - Amelia Atwater-Rhodes Ah, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, the purple prose enabler of my youth. (I’m not slamming her; look, she was fourteen when In the Forests of the Night was published, the writing’s not perfect. She’s gotten better.) Between seventh and tenth grade, I devoured the entire Den of Shadows quartet and loved them. And then I read Hawksong and that was the last book I read by her until All Just Glass came out a few years ago. It’s not that I wasn’t interested at all in the Kiesha’ra series, I just never got around to reading them as they were being released.I’m also going to review this as one whole book, as opposed to reviewing it by volume. Because this is one continuous story, just experienced by different characters. And there lies on of my big problems with the books and Atwater-Rhodes’s writing—she really doesn’t do a lot to differentiate voices from book to book. I understand that yes, Nicias is going to sound more like Danica due to their upbringing, but Zane comes off cold and distant in his book, and it’s been established that he doesn’t have emotional reserve. It’s more jarring to me in here than it was with her other omnibus, especially reading this in one go, and it makes the book feel extremely dry. It doesn’t bother me for every book—her narrative style does work in Hawksong and Wolfcry. It just doesn’t gel with the characterization of the narrators at time.But the really weak part of this whole series, and this is a problem that I have with nearly all of her books, is that Atwater-Rhodes cannot write a decent climax to save her life. She does great character studies. I like it when her climaxes are contained and small battles and the big breakthrough is for the character emotionally. Here, this feels like she so wants this series to be big and epic and sweeping and every single volume ends with the characters talking at one another. I get the backstory, I do. I get that this world has seen so much bloodshed that none of the main characters wants to continue…but I never get the idea that the stakes are high enough that bloodshed will be inevitable. Only one major named character dies in this series, and her murderers are brought to justice without a big fuss. (Andreios doesn’t count in my book. I may have swore a lot at that reveal.) There’s so much talk about the falcons being a constant danger in the post-war world, but they don’t really do anything except swoop and talk about “Yeah, you’re all going to die if you continue to live together.” Everything about this series feels too easy. One of my main problems with Hawksong is that each side manages to handle their respective leaders marrying for politics with relative ease. Aside from Charis Cobriana’s assassination and Danica’s near-assassination (which feels more like a move of jealousy, not politics), there’s no on-screen escalation of violence. And it never escalates in any of the further books. The only time we get an exploration of how complicated things are is in Wolfcry, and Oliza’s internal struggle about choosing a mate. That book really does illustrate that while Wyvern’s Court may look like a haven of peace, there’s still old wounds and struggles and it’s all piled on top of Oliza until she can’t take it anymore. Wolfcry is one of the few instances across the series where I didn’t mind the protagonists talking at the climax until it backs down because it made sense.Falcondance and Wyvernhail were the two weakest books in the series, in my honest opinion. While I consider the world-building one of the strongest aspects of these books (and why I’m actually planning on picking up the Maeve’ra books when they come out), I do not like the falcons. They have a larger purpose in the narrative, but every time a falcon from Ahnmik shows up it feels like they’re only there to be mysterious and ancient. They don’t make as huge of an impact as they should on the books, especially since Nicias and Hai are major players in the end. And Wyvernhail in particular. Again, I get what Atwater-Rhodes is doing with Hai’s visions. But nothing in the plot completely suggests that everything’s going to die and a lot of character actions feel forced, or rather, Hai automatically jumps to conclusions. It feels jarring when the character decides “Fuck what the future holds,” when I can’t see the logical conclusion from “Oh Oliza will have to take the throne after all” to DEATH AND DESTRUCTION. (It’s not that I dislike Snakecharm save for the ONE THING ABOUT REI. SORRY NOT THAT UPSET. You can also tell how long it’s been since I’ve actually read the first book because the flashbacks to Sebastian and Danica meeting for the first time had me going “What, was that in the first book originally?” Anyway. Snakecharm’s not bad, it’s good. It’s just more a breather book and expands more on the history of the avians and the serpentiente.) Again, I do give Atwater-Rhodes credit for creating a series with a complex mythology and sticking with it. (Den of Shadows mythology was wibbly at points.) But the lack of any consequence or stakes pretty much kills my enjoyment of the series. I don’t know if I would have liked the Kiesha’ra better if I had originally read the individual volumes, but the omnibus really illustrates the problems with Atwater-Rhodes’s writing, especially since it does begin to feel repetitive when the solution to each book is the exact. Same. Method. I’m not saying that it’s a terrible series, but I do feel like it’s a weak one. Again, I’m hoping that the upcoming Maeve’ra will fill in some of the large plot issues (particularly with the falcons).