05 April 2012

Review: The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn

Author: Sharon Shinn
Title: The Shape of Desire
Series: Shifting Circle #1
Pages: 336
Source: Owned

For fifteen years Maria Devane has been desperately, passionately in love with Dante Romano. But despite loving him with all of her heart and soul, Maria knows that Dante can never give all of himself back-at least not all the time.
Every month, Dante shifts shape, becoming a wild animal. During those times, he wanders far and wide, leaving Maria alone. He can't choose when he shifts, the transition is often abrupt and, as he gets older, the time he spends in human form is gradually decreasing. But Maria, who loves him without hesitation, wouldn't trade their unusual relationship for anything.
Since the beginning, she has kept his secret, knowing that their love is worth the danger. But when a string of brutal attacks occur in local parks during the times when Dante is in animal form, Maria is forced to consider whether the lies she's been telling about her life have turned into lies she's telling herself...

I am a huge fan of Sharon Shinn, and have been looking forward to this book for almost a year now. Having read it, it is different from Ms. Shinn's usual work in that it is set in the real world, in present-day Missouri, and reads more like magical realism than fantasy. I enjoyed it very much, but it was different.

Maria Devane has been in love with Dante for fifteen years. Dante is a shapeshifter, and as the years have gone by, he spends more and more time in his animal shape, so that he is human only a few days a month. Maria's whole life revolves around keeping Dante's secret and she lives for the moments she can be with him in his human form.

The story is quite slow-paced, but I think that was the point. It's not an epic tale, or one filled with adventure; not a lot of things happen. It's the simple story of Maria life, her daily routine, and the brief moments of happiness she has with Dante. It's about the strain of keeping his secret, of choosing to be in a relationship, which although it makes her happy, is not entirely healthy and balanced.

In the end, we find out it's also about Dante, his motivations, and the choices he's made; the new choices he can choose to make.

The issues that arise in Maria's life around the choices she makes concerning Dante, and how she reacts to issues in the lives of the people around her provides a lot of food for thought - both for Maria and for me as a reader. There are no easy answers.

It's a slow story. But it is also a simple and heartfelt story, told with grace and stark beauty, with complex characters who have complex motivations, who make difficult choices.

I waited a year for this, and although it was not what I expected at the end of that wait, I was not disappointed at all. Of course I recommend it - it's Sharon Shinn!!



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