In Julia’s life, timing is everything. Like the time her paranoid father put bars on her window so she wouldn’t sneak out at night—even though she’s never given him a reason not to trust her. Or the time this weird new kid showed up at her school and pretty much every girl in sight instantly and inexplicably fell in love with him. What was up with that?
But as time moves on, things in Julia’s life go from strange to seriously impossible. Now it’s all she can do to keep herself and the life she’s always known from falling apart.
This fast-paced action-adventure story is packed with humor, romance, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing to the very last page. Get lost in a world of hidden royalty, shifting alliances, and dangerous vendettas, but don’t ever forget: nothing is what it seems.
Published 12 June 2012.
This review is long overdue since it took me quite a while to figure out what exactly I was feeling.
Because, you see, The Shapeshifter's Secret is a novel that grows on you. I didn't realize that until I was on the last page when suddenly, my brain processed what my heart was saying: Whatever I had disliked about the book had melted away into a pool of caramel somewhere in between the covers. I have to say, from skimming through the words initially to being grabbed by the steadiness of the story, the world of shapeshifters is one that sucks you in like a vortex and never lets you out.
In the first few chapters, everything seemed to be going along a clichéd path. There's that new good-looking boy in school, the starry-eyed best friend, the secretive parent... All these built up to the final moment of revelation. Guess what? Julia is from a royal family in a parallel world of shapeshifters.
I wasn't very impressed, to say the least. How come this sounded so eerily similar to the other books on my shelf? *sneaks a peek at Switched and The Iron King* But, I persisted with Julia as she catapulted from one action scene to the next, finally arriving in Ossai-- the world she belonged to.
And when she started with her new life in a castle-like school with lessons of rich history and ominous heritage, I got hooked. Not that I couldn't put the book down, but simply, I didn't want to any more. Because at some unknown point in the novel, The Shapeshifter's Secret developed a vibrant life of its own with the main protagonist manoeuvring the school-grounds. Julia finds out about a mother she never had. She deals with secret tunnels with even more mysterious ancestors. She learns to explore her own ability and her inner cat. And then, she falls in love.
She falls in love with Terrence. I think that is the weakest part of the entire story. I totally didn't buy their romance-- one that came too quick, expanded too fast and was sealed too soon. At the back of my mind, there was a tiny voice screaming "Caleb!" That one good-looking boy Julia first met, what about him?
Just like that, the story unfolds steadily in a comfortable pace. There are lessons, new friends, jealous enemies and cold teachers. Julia's eventful school life blankets you with its peaceful warmth. You submerge yourself in her ups and downs, better understanding Julia as more sides are revealed to you with new surprises around the corner.
When the whole tale ended with a flourish, I was satisfied. This is not a life-changing novel, or a once in a lifetime tale. This is not even a book that will make you cry or your heart ache. Ultimately, The Shapeshifter's Secret is just a novel that is wholly grounded and unbelievably real. You look through the eyes of a girl living in a strange world, and yet, she is living life just like you do.
Heather Ostler ends her novel with a worthy cliffhanger, concluding the end to a well-written journey of a girl growing up.
The whole novel is not a thrilling ride. Instead, it's one that gives you what you were seeking for-- a refreshing hour or two, spent plunging yourself in a whole new world.
Source: From Cedar Fort (publisher) for review purposes
A Netgalley copy.
Click here to see my interview with Heather Ostler (the author of The Shapeshifter's Secret).