Memoirs of a Shape-Shifter
Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield
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Memoirs of a Shape-Shifter

Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield
Kepler Press
440 pages
October 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Memoirs of a Shape-Shifter is a modern gothic novel that goes beyond the more common commercial form of the genre. Along with magic, ravens, wolves, and a mysterious emerald brooch, the author also explores the female psychology, male-and-female relationships, and feminist issues.

Forty-year-old lawyer Nikki Helmik leaves her job in Boston to come back to her childhood town of Gloucester, MA. Soon she falls in love with Philip, the son of her cruel and beautiful childhood mentor Rose Eveless, a woman obsessed with physical beauty and eternal youth. Rose is outraged by Nikki and Philip’s relationship, not only because Philip is already married, but also because Rose believes Nikki had an affair with her husband, who is now dead.

Torn between conflicting loyalties and ideals, Nikki isn’t sure what to do. Then Rose makes her a strange offer. She may have Philip, but on one condition: she must find the long-lost journal of an ancient Druid magician, a shape-shifter named Anne Cleves, who happens to be Nikki’s ancestor. Rose believes the journal might hold the key to the eternal youth she so desperately desires. Thus begins Nikki’s search for the journal as well as for her own identity. Will finding the journal resolve her psychological conflict and help her accept the man she loves?

At times, especially in the beginning, the novel moves quite slowly, with pages and pages of what seems like pointless dialogue. This is accentuated by the tiny print used in the book. The author spends too much time dwelling on the character of Rose, who later disappears for most of the story and doesn’t show up until the end. It is not until the reader is able to read the mysterious “lost” journal that the story begins to gain momentum.

Though Nikki comes through as a real entity, Rose, on the other hand, is a stereotypical “beautiful and cruel” antagonist and even appears comical at times. The dialogue, however, flows naturally and sparkles with genuineness, and the author does an excellent job putting himself in the mind of the female protagonist. Through the journal, the reader is transported into another time and place with all the sights and sounds of those dark times. In fact, reading the ancient Druid’s first-person account is the most fascinating aspect of the book.

This novel would be of special interest to those readers interested in Druid magic—its history, particulars and gore. The author offers some fascinating details about this subject.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Mayra Calvani, 2005

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