Shifter is the third book in Alma Alexander’s Were Chronicles, and is unfortunately the weakest book so far. The first book, Random, is the single most unique were-story I’ve ever read and I’ve read a lot of them. Wolf, the second book was equally as fascinating, though less unique as the were-creatures in this book were of the were-wolf variety. However, it was still a really good sequel to Random. This one? I don’t know, it was disjointed and very repetitive for the events in both Random and Wolf. In fact, I might have enjoyed this book a lot more if I hadn’t already read Random or Wolf, and while I think Random and Wolf need to be read together, Shifter can be read on it’s own.
Alexander sets up a world where were-creatures are another type of minority. They do not replace minority groups, but they are a persecuted minority. Random is the story of Jazz Marsh who belongs to a small sub-group of weres who can choose the animal they will shift into, but once they make that first shift they’re locked into that particular animal. Jazz ends up shifting into something no one else has ever done before and it sends shock-waves through her community. As she deals with that she also comes to grip with the prejudice-laden events that lead to the death of her oldest sister, and how that death has influenced her family dynamics. Wolf follows Jazz’s brother Mal as he delves deeper into the secrets of were-society, particularly the super secretive were-wolf sect and he uncovers further secrets about experiments done on were-kind. Shifter tells the story of Saladin van Schalkwyk, or Chalky as he’s known in Random and Wolf, an enigmatic helper character in both of those novels. He’s the character who is very helpful and supplies a lot of information but remains mysterious throughout both novels. And I kind of wish he’d stayed that way.
My biggest issue with this book is that over 60% of it is a retelling of the events in Random and Wolf from Chalky’s point of view, except his point of view doesn’t add any new information to those events and thus change them in anyway. And because so much of the novel is retreading old ground, the actual plot of this novel doesn’t really have time to take off. It’s no coincidence I laid out the plot of both previous novels, because this one doesn’t really have a plot beyond those two. The only real new information is that we get a glimpse into Chalky’s early life, where he is the Gariest Stew I’ve read in a long time; uber tragic background, super duper smart, bestest at everything he wants to do, etc. Once we start on the events in the two previous novels, his super specialness takes a back seat but it never really goes away. We then spend a long time with him telling us what he did during the events of the previous books, except that knowledge was already available to us in those books, so it was extremely boring to read. I persevered, hoping that there was some point to this novel but if there was I couldn’t find it. The only scene told in detail after that point was one where Chalky finds insta love with someone as special as he is, though in a different way. The rest of the book is a small glimpse at the story that could have been, the were-groups forming strong protections and fighting against those who would hurt them. Sadly it’s brushed over and sped through.
That paragraph was a long winded way of saying I’m not really sure what this novel is about. There’s a reason so much of my review is talking about the two previous novels. Fortunately, because it doesn’t really add anything to the story of Random or Wolf, it is completely skippable. You should absolutely pick up Random and Wolf as they’re amazing, but skip this one.