[Book Review] The Shape-Changer's Wife

The Shape-Changer's Wife / Sharon Shinn (Powell's Books)

Aubrey is a gifted student of wizardy, one who assimilates knowledge easily and always wants to learn more.  His studies take him on a journey to the wizard Glyrenden, but he discovers more mysteries than knowledge in the home of the shape-changer, where nothing seems quite as it should.  What of Glyrenden's wife and servants?  What of the knowledge that cannot be unlearned?

The Shape-Changer's Wife is the first Virtual Speculation pick that I did not read beforehand.  I wanted to include something by Sharon Shinn, having enjoyed Archangel, and coming across many references to the quality of this book decided me (the fact that one of the endorsements was by Peter S. Beagle increased my expectations).  Additionally, at 215 pages, The Shape-Changer's Wife makes for a quick read.

The story has elements of a fairy tale or fable throughout, including an iconic shape-shifters' duel of wit, skill, and ingenuity as they flow through forms to attack and defend.  The Shape-Changer's Wife is also something of a love story, but not in anyways a traditional romance novel, with a focus on discovery, hope, and loss rather than lust and marriage.

Discussion Fodder
  • What do you think about the science of shape-changing, the need to understand the mind and making of the body you occupy in order to become it?  
  • Do you think it would be more difficult shape-shift to the opposite gender or to an animal?  Would the similarity of species hurt or hinder the transformation?  How might gender identity effect shape shifting?
  • Is, as Glyrenden claims, flirtation and seduction a type of spell casting.
  • Does Glyrenden use magic besides transfiguration and illusion?  What sort of illusory magic does he cast on those around him?  Is, "the heart of magic illusion"?
  • Does Lilith's otherness stand out to you, or does she seem just a strange woman?  Why is Lilith so convincingly human, particularly in comparison to Arachne and Orion?
  • How does love effect magic?  Both the ability to be changed, and the ability to change.
  • How does learning to become a tree help Aubrey learn to love Lilith better, and to tip her ability to feel towards him?
  • Do you think the sheer amount of transformative magic on the land around Glyrenden's home imbued intelligence to the land and creatures?
  • Do you think the woman of the epilogue is Lilith?


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