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Thoughts On: The Shifter

Last month, I finished the book The Shifter by Janice Hardy. A few classmates read it for CA class last year and it was on the booklist, so I read it out of curiosity. Now, I wish that I read it earlier.

The plot of The Shifter is this: The fifteen-year old protagonist, Nya, lives in a fantasy world where Takers can cure wounds by taking pain out of people and transferring it into pynvium. However, Nya has the ability to shift pain into other people. Naturally, she hides it, since The Duke of the Three Territories searches for special Takers like her. But when Healer apprentices start to disappear from the League, Nya is pulled into a conflict where she has to sacrifice her morals for the greater good.

Beside the nice word choice, varied sentence structure, and the deep and unique setting (what was the last book you read where healing is the prime element of the world?), the defining trait of the book is Nya's inner conflict.

She is an anti-hero, but not in a typical way. Instead of doing less than moral decisions due to her alignment, she feels conflicted, and only does what she does for the greater good. Shifting pain into other people is a power a completely pure person can't use. Nya uses her abilities lot, and feels bad about it. Also, she hides it from most of her allies during the first part of the book, and further digs herself into a hole as she keeps this secret.

The external plot is also intriguing. The antagonists are shady, with whom doing what being unclear until the end. For example, when Nya finds where the apprentices are going, she thinks of her fellow race (racism is a recurring theme) that are working in the League as traitors until she finds out that they think it's only a disease, instead that the apprentices are being forced to keep their pain, since pynvium ran out. The characters also aren’t certain about who is the head of the conspiracy until the final sequence.

Also, as Nya explores the extent of her powers, she is tangled into a web of intrigue. With an ordinary YA character, these constant discoveries of powers would characterize her as a Mary Sue. However, she has to make choices where she is reluctant in using them, and therefore makes her powers more excusable and believable. But I hope that in the next book, these powers are explained. Although Nya's past (which is also interesting, since her parents worked for the League) is often shown, there's still some mystery.

In the end, the book’s depth, descriptive narrative, and suspense make it a great read. If you like your fantasy anchored onto one character, as opposed to reading a Doorstopper epic, The Shifter provides entertainment for both teens and adults. I can’t wait to read the next book.

Expect the next book to be Eight Grade Bites by Heather Brewer.