CONVERSATION: Shifter Recommendations
Sirius: If you do like shifters what are your favorite ones?
Yesterday we ran the first part of our discussion on Shifters. Today’s post, the second part, is all about recommendations for shifter books. We hope you enjoy these! If you read them, we’d love to hear your thoughts on these books. ~ Janine
Popular and/or Wolf Shifter Books in Contemporary Settings
Sirius: I love how all shifters are portrayed in the Kate Daniels series. In that world shifters are humans infected with special virus – they certainly have some animalistic characteristics, but they are humans living with virus, that’s pretty much it and I love how easily they incorporate some things that some animals will do in nature and that to me deepens the characterizations of them as humans.
Janine: I like some of Ilona Andrews’ shifters, but not all. My favorite Andrews’ shifter was Jack in On the Edge (not so much in the later sequels). He was a little boy who was into everything and sniffing everything, and a great tracker, which was at once childlike and wolflike and worked really well for that particular story. It was appealing without being overly adorable.
On the other hand, shortly after we meet Sean, the wolf shifter love interest in their Innkeeper Chronicles series, he urinates around his and Dina’s neighborhood. I don’t care what his reasons were, marking your territory outside like a dog, even at night, is the antithesis of sexy. And I didn’t care for William, the wolf shifter hero of Bayou Moon, because he had this canine neediness.
My favorite shifter romances are Patricia Briggs’ novella Alpha and Omega, #0.5 in her Alpha and Omega series (except for the first couple A&O books I consider these UF, not romance) and Nalini Singh’s Caressed by Ice, #3 in the Psy/Changeling series. They explore the safety and self-acceptance aspects I described yesterday as being one of my favorite aspects of animal shifter books so well.
Layla: My favorite series with werewolves is the Patricia Briggs series Alpha and Omega followed by the Mercy Thompson series.
Janine: One of the things I especially love about Alpha and Omega (the novella) is that though their wolves instantly feel safe with each other, Charles and Anna’s human halves really struggle with that. They don’t have that same ease; their impulses aren’t safe. The relationship between the wolf and human aspects of each character are as big a part of the story as the relationship between the characters. Where many shifter romances are about a wild, almost uncontrollable passion, Alpha and Omega is about restraint, about how if you love the other person, it’s about their emotions, not yours. That’s a lot of why I love this couple.
Kaetrin: My faves are still Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson world series (the issues I have with that series despite how much I love it are not about shifters) and the Ilona Andrews books (mainly Kate Daniels but there are some shifters – kind of – in the Hidden Legacy series too). I was a big fan of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling books but I haven’t read one for a while.
Sirius: In the last year I found Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series which made it to my best of list to be very much to my taste series about shifters and off the top of my head that’s about it. The books were a hit with me, but I am having trouble articulating what was specifically there in the portrayal of the werewolves that I loved so much. I think I loved the characters and for one of them wolf was the integral part of who he was and I enjoyed him and liked meeting his family. His struggles as a shifter and human being made sense. I also loved how the alpha turned out to not be that and I cannot say more without spoilers.
Layla: I have read the Charlie Adhara books–the werewolf premise drew me in. I liked the first book a lot–and kept reading. But the books just got worse and I stopped at the second to the last. Something happened–I’m DYING to talk to someone about it–that made me so angry and made me stop reading.
Kaetrin: I read the first of the Charlie Adhara series when it came out and I have the others but they don’t catch my eye on my TBR as much as other books do.
Janine: I mentioned Prisoner by Lia Silver yesterday. That’s a book that Jane recommended here years ago. I really liked the way it looked at the question of humanity—are we any more human than werewolves if we treat them like animals and hold ourselves superior? The contrasting of questions about what’s human and what’s humane was thoughtful and well-executed.
Kaetrin: Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert was a lot of fun. That’s a werewolf book. Another favourite is Molly Harper. Her Jane Jameson books and the spin-off Half-Moon Hollow series set in that same group and more recently her Mystic Bayou books are all terrific and especially good on audio.
Shifters Who aren’t Wolves
Sirius: I think it was in book six (but I am not sure) in the Kate Daniels series where Curran (for those who have not read these series he is a love interest and very important character in the books, he is also a lion shifter) basically says that he will not go hunting with others, because he is a male lion and he is not interested and we know that lionesses of the pride usually do most hunting. I thought it was well done and made me giggle too. Basically I am a male lion and really lazy.
Janine: Curran isn’t a favorite for me. The idea of a giant gray lion is not sexy and also he is too much of a superman for me. I have come around to liking his human side however. The alpha aspect of shifter romances is interesting and really well-handled in that series. I like how the political parts of his job frustrate Curran or even tire him sometimes. I loved when he quit the pack because he got sick of them, that was great.
Jayne: I liked that the Zoe Chant book Cute but Prickly featured different shifters – in this case a hedgehog and a grison – than the standard wolf/big cat. Dakota Cassidy’s series also has some house cat shifters. I liked both of those. I remember them as being more of the cute and fluffy variety of shifters.
I like that Paladin’s Strength has the shifter aspect be central to a plot thread and I enjoyed the time spent in the bear shifter’s POV while shifted.
Kaetrin: Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher was one of my best reads of last year. I adored it – though that feeling was more about the characters and the humour then the fact that it featured a shifter per se.
Janine: Although I never got past the first two books, Thea Harrison’s paranormal series beginning with Dragon Bound is very popular.
Kaetrin: I forgot all about the Elder Races series by Thea Harrison! I love that series – Dragon Bound is a book I’ve re-read and re-listened to more than once which is pretty rare for me. When I read Dragon Bound, it felt like PNR was mainly vampires and werewolves so it was refreshing to have a dragon for a change. Also, Pia is a shifter as well and for most of the book the reader didn’t know what kind (no spoilers here!).
It was the chemistry between Dragos and Pia made the book work so well for me. The jaded ancient power whose interest is suddenly sparked by this woman who dared steal from him? And when he falls for her he’s so totally gone – watching him try to change to accommodate her was the best.
Priddy’s Tale by Harper Fox is just a delight – it’s a queer PNR/fantasy romance with a merman. It’s fantastic on audio as well (and available on Audible Plus too so members can listen free.)
Shifters in Historical Settings
Janine: Can you guys think of any historical shifter books you have enjoyed? I’m thinking of Shana Abe’s Drakon series (set in 1730s-1910s Europe) which begins with The Smoke Thief. They are about dragon shifters. The first two are excellent and the dragons’ small society—not pack but they have their own version of that—is very controlling of powerful female dragons. There aren’t very many so they are coveted by the men. It’s a dark world in that way but at the same time there’s a mysterious, fairy tale feel to it. Those are the best historical paranormal romances I can think of.
Jennie: I’d forgotten all about Shana Abe’s Drakon series! I had to dig into my book log to determine that I’d read all five books in the series between 2007 and 2010. Four of them were A-/B+; the fourth book was a B (and I vaguely remember having issues with it even now, though I don’t remember any details).
Anyway, I really did like that series – and it may have been that it made me more comfortable with paranormal romance than I’d previously been. (I’ve long been a very picky fantasy reader, so I think that plays into my paranormal pickiness).
For some reason I don’t quite think of the characters in the Drakon series as shapeshifters, and I can’t really articulate why. Maybe because dragons aren’t real animals? More likely it’s just because the world Abe creates feels so different to me than the standard shapeshifters I’ve read. I’m sure it being a historical plays into it as well.
I wouldn’t mind rereading that series, actually. I really loved Abe’s prose style.
Layla: I did read and love the Shana Abe series in the past (So I guess if they are shifter books then I have read about something other than werewolves!).
Jayne: Gillian Bradshaw’s The Wolf Hunt is set in medieval France. It has a lot of basic medieval lusciousness that is unrelated to the shifter stuff plus a strong heroine. But there is a degree of thought put into how the hero experiences the world while he’s shifted and what his absence (after he’s betrayed) means for the peasants on his land. The shifter aspect is really central to his character rather than feeling as if it was just shoved into the book because “Hey, shifters are hot and selling well now.” It was actually first published in 2001.
Janine: I just remembered Aster Glenn Gray’s The Wolf and the Girl, which is an f/f romance novella retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in 1910 against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and France in a milieu of theater and early cinema/filmmaking. I loved this novella and not least because the author did a great job with the unusual historical settings (Sirius wasn’t such a fan, though). Gray is also the author of Briarley, an m/m “Beauty and the Beast” romance where one of the heroes has been cursed into a dragon, set in the English countryside during the World War II blitz.
Kaetrin: I really enjoyed the Capital Wolves duet by Joanna Chambers – Gentleman Wolf and Master Wolf. It’s a queer historical werewolf romance [taking place mostly in late 1700s / early 1800s Edinburgh] – I listened to them (the narration is fantastic) back-to-back because the first one does not have a HEA (or even a HFN) and I’m all about the HEA. It has a bit of a different take on the werewolf mythos which made it stand out. Plus, Joanna Chambers is an autobuy author for me and the audio narration by Hamish McKinley is superb. The prologue is rough going as far as CWs are concerned though.
Janine: Virginia Kantra wrote a historical paranormal novella titled “Shifting Sea” (it was in the anthology Burning Up) that was set in 1813 Scotland. The heroine was a sea elemental/selkie. I love selkie romances.
Jayne: For some reason, I didn’t consider a recent book I read Daughter of the Sea by Elisabeth J. Hobbes, a shifter novel but it is. It takes place in 1880s Yorkshire. The hero is a selkie and his daughter, whom the heroine takes care of, is also a selkie. I enjoyed it more for its strong heroine than for the shifter part.
What are your favorite shifter romances, readers? We’d love some recommendations for werewolf romances, other shifter romances, and shifter romances set in historical periods ourselves. And please do ask for any other kind of shifter recommendations that you are looking for or chime in with your thoughts on the books we’ve mentioned.