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Waiting for a week with Dante,
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This review is from: The Shape of Desire (Shifting Circle Novel) (Mass Market Paperback)
A new novel, and the start of a new series, from Sharon Shinn. A writer of both fantasy and science fiction novels who always adds in a touch of romance to her tales.
This is the first 'shifting circle' novel. Whereas her other work has been set on other worlds or in alien realms, this is modern day urban fantasy/paranormal romance. And thus is set in recognisably present day contemporary America.
It runs for three hundred and twenty five pages and is divided into twenty one chapters. The main story of the book, about two characters, is complete and self contained and is resolved by the end. The series element comes in thanks to a bigger backround story. So we shall see where that goes in future books.
Our heroine, who narrates the whole thing in first person present tense, is Maria Devane. A thirty something accountant and office worker. Who has, for the past fifteen years, had a relationship with a man called Dante. But they can only be together for one week every month. Because, as we find out early on, he is a shapeshifter. And for a lot of the time will transform into an animal. He has next to no control over it happening or what he does when in animal form.
The two have gotten by like this for fifteen years - you don't for quite some time find out how they got together in the first place - but now Maria's biological clock is starting to tick. She's wondering if they can go on like this forever. And when a string of attacks by wild animals take place on locals in nearby parkland, she has to wonder just what is really happening when Dante isn't with her...
This does contain a few bits of strong language, and a lot of scenes of an adult nature. Because the two of them get very passionate every chance they get. The narrative does start by throwing you into the middle of all this. But the first chapter does set it all up very nicely and is quite engaging. Maria and Dante do have a very good chemistry together. Plus all descriptions of Maria's day job and life are well done, with her co workers and friends being well drawn characters.
But come the second chapter, it starts to lose it's initial pace and hold. The first third of the book gets very lethargic and uneventful. We watch Maria just live her life whilst waiting for a week with Dante. She does also learn a few things about relatives of his.
The plot about the animal attacks is lurking in the background all the time.
From the beginning of the second third of the book, it does actually start to get going a bit more. Although a plotline about a colleague of Maria's being involved with domestic abuse is a bit more involving than tha main one. Which is not something you would be looking for if you've come to this to read a fantasy romance.
The way things do come together in the end isn't bad. With a couple of decent surprises. And the very end of the book is quite nice. But it breaks one of the cardinal rules of drama in that the led character should act rather than react. Because although Maria is pretty decisive in using her initiative about one particular thing, it's not the main plotline.
A reasonable read that may be worth a look if you're into paranormal romance. But for regular readers of Sharon Shinn possibly a bit of a disappointment. If you are one of the latter, though, it's probably best to try it and make your own mind up.
But there is a great joke on page one hundred and fifty six.