Book Release and Review: Cassie Alexander's Shapeshifted

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

You may remember me reviewing my friend Cassie’s book Nightshifted a while back – and I did so very positively.  And why not?  It was a solid, fast-paced urban fantasy, with the kick-ass premise of a nurse working the “secret” shift at a hospital, fixing up broken werewolves, vampires, and shapeshifters.  The lead, Edie Spence, is a pleasantly broken sort, prone to kinky sex with strangers, self-sacrificing to a sometimes unhealthy bent, definitely an adrenaline junky.  And since Cassie is a real-life, honest-to-God nurse, the entire book felt very hospital-real.
shapeshiftedIt took me longer to read Moonshifted, the inevitable nurses-meet-werewolves sequel, but that has nothing to do with Cassie’s writing; I’m a doof and purchased it on my least-read format, the Kindle.  Some read ebooks freely; I read in the tub.  So if I don’t have a physical copy of it on-hand, I’m probably never going to read it outside of a long bus trip.  And since I’d purchased it in one format, I felt silly buying it again.
But thankfully, I did eventually lay hands on a paper copy of it, and lo, I was impressed.  Cassie’s got a lot of talent at keeping plot threads juggled and moving, and her attempts to diagnose the maladies of struck-by-car werewolves were fascinating, even as Edie is desperately trying to avoid getting caught up in vampire politics.  (Is it any surprise that vampires don’t like werewolves here, either?  Didn’t think so.)  The whole thing wrapped up with Edie quitting her job at the secret Y4 ward – which was not particularly wise, given that the mysterious Shadows that run the place are the only thing keeping her junkie brother from going nuts on heroin, but hey.  There were Reasons, okay?
So I was curious to see how her new book Shapeshifted would be, since Cassie’s zombies (normal-looking, suave boyfriend-types who can’t die and heal through eating other people’s flesh) and shapeshifters (crazed multiple-personality types trying not to go looney) were arguably the most interesting part of her mythology.  And since Shapeshifted promised to be about, well, shapeshifters, I was excited.
Except it wasn’t much about shapeshifters.  Instead, Cassie explores a newer and perhaps bolder world: The barrio.
Which makes the third book in this series very interesting, since it breaks the pattern.  In the previous two books, it was clear how things worked: as a nurse, Cassie stumbles across interesting plot and is pulled into it.  In this, she’s not employed by anyone fang-y at all, and in fact can’t go back to her old job… so what does she do when her mother gets cancer, and the only way she can save Mom is to go on the hunt for vampires?
It would have been easy to keep up with that comforting template, but this new plotline is more interesting.  Edie is challenged in new ways, and when clues lead her to a clinic in one of the poorer sections of town, the scary world of vampire politics is replaced – not all too differently – with Edie negotiating gangs and gang leaders.  It’s a much more active Edie, one who’s constantly making choices as she ping-pongs between various factions.  And yes, I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that the supernatural elements resurface.
It makes Edie a much bolder and deeper character, which only makes sense: when you want to know who someone is, take away what they love.  And having Edie try to balance a drifting family, a clinic under siege, and her rather tumultuous love life, then you get a novel that I burned through in about three days’ straight.
There are some gripes I have, though: considering that Cassie is very good at writing kinky sex, and writing it well, the seeming publishers’ limit of “One hot sex scene per book” is a little maddening.  Come on, let’s have some more random hookups.  Please.  (And also, my favorite character in the whole series – the sentient boom box who only speaks in German language tutorials – had a major plot twist in Moonshifted, then disappeared from this book entirely.  That was a letdown. as was the more permanent disappearance of someone I wanted to get to know a lot better.)
But this series is definitely going places.  You can tell it’s good, because the minute Gini saw both of them on the counter, she called dibs.  And I told her no, Cassie’s release date is today, and as such I had to prep my review of it.  But I’ll tell you clear: if you like urban fantasy, you should be buying Nightshifted, Moonshifted, and then Shapeshifted.  And if you liked the previous two, pick up Shapeshifted today.
 

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