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  • Writer's pictureA. Murphy

Feather and Fang: Yah!

Warning: Spoilers! (also I am fully aware these are technically kids books)

This is the latest book in the Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes. I have read the entire Shapeshifter series but as a teenager and I believed there were only five books. I only recently discovered the existence of a sixth. I loved the series growing up so I went out to buy the book straight away. It took me a while to get around to reading it because I had a stack of unread books, but once I got to It's been a long time since a book has made me want to stay up late reading. It was like being a kid again, lying in bed with a reading lamp on constantly telling myself that I'll read one more chapter, just one more, okay one more.

Dax Jones has lived the past five years as a member of the COLA Club, as one of the Children Of Limitless Ability. He's been through a lot but now it seems that his school is no longer the safe haven it should be. The new security that is supposedly to keep them safe, is clearly meant to keep the world safe from them. It is quickly becoming a prison for Dax, and he will not stand for it.

I loved reading this. I was so eager to find out what happened. It's been a long time since a book has gotten me this excited. Everything was a little bit more sinister this time, which felt appropriate and not at all out of place as the series seemed to be getting darker as it progressed (like the Harry Potter series). Not to mention, I love the concept. A bunch of super-powered kids all together in a school, big X-Men vibes, but it is distinctly British, and there are only so many powers. This is great, it means they can't just do anything they want and (despite the name) it places a limit on their powers. Additionally I love shapeshifting, it's my favourite super power ever, even if Dax can't turn into whatever he wants the three forms he does have a pretty cool.

As much as I liked this book (and I really, really did) it did feel slightly rushed. It was almost as if Sparkes had some ideas for what she wanted to happen and then threw those ideas into a book without truly developing them. I understand this. As a writer sometimes you want to have a specific thing happen but you can't just chuck it in there, you need a reason.

While it was definitely interesting to see all of the characters a little more grown up (not much, sixteen is still pretty young) but closer to adulthood than how I remember them. Some things didn't settle right because they weren't woven into the story enough. The relationship between Dax and Lisa for example. Throughout the entire series they have only been portrayed as friends, the fact that they are now attracted to each other comes out of nowhere. It doesn't hit as hard as it should.

I loved the change in the character of Mia. We saw hints of it in Stirring the Storm but it was the beginnings of something unpleasant there was no way I could predict where her character went. While it is okay to jump in a timeline when there has been a bit of a gap in the series, a writer should explain the change. In the case of Mia, all the characters refer to an incident in which she...well I'm not sure what she did because it is never fully explained. She had only just developed her pyrokinetic abilities in the last book but now she is fully in control of them and can even start fires from a distance. She's run away from the others after...attacking them? attacking the staff? destroying buildings? I don't know but without explanation it doesn't seem like the same person. Perhaps you have to read Sparkes' other series Unleashed which takes place in the same universe with the same characters. However I don't think you should have to read different series just so you can understand the happenings in the other. It feels like money-grabbing to me.

Looking back, there were actually a few things that I should have noticed as they would have put me off. Yet that's the sign of a well-written book right? The fact that you don't pick up on these things because you're so wrapped up in the story? I can't deny I enjoyed it even if I'm picking it apart.

All in all the story line kept me engaged and the darker tone felt right considering the characters are older and audience is too. It was the characterisation that was lacking but as there had been five previous books it wasn't too bad. Although I wish I'd seen more of the characters I'd grown up with though. They are taken out of the story pretty fast and we only follow Dax. Sure there are other characters we've met before but they were never a big deal so there not as familiar to the audience.

It was still a fun read though I must say. I was excited to know what happened next and I was invested in the fates of these characters despite wishing they'd been developed more. I recommend it but you must read the other books first (which are great I don't remember anything that I disliked about them it's a great series.)

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