Editorial Review: The Shapewalker’s Song by JH Tomen
Can you let your past guide your future - without losing yourself along the way?
Sumi is an unassuming young woman who works in a flower shop and lives with her cat in a lonely house in Berill, a changing land with magic in its history, where industrialization is encroaching on the traditional ways and livelihoods of its people.
Her journey of self-discovery begins soon after the passing of her beloved grandmother when she realizes that she has shapeshifting powers.
"She dipped into her field of awareness, just as she had when she was a coin. She felt her long stems reaching down into the vase and felt the cool water against her thorns. She chuckled to herself in her mind, there was water in the vase?! How specific. It was sort of an odd feeling though, completely different from being a coin."
Sumi desperately wants to find a sense of purpose by using her newly found abilities to help people. As she refines her skills and searches in history books and her family’s past for insights, there are internal struggles that she must face.
Sumi also doesn’t know that someone is looking for her – and that there are misaligned forces within Berill that she must keep her powers hidden from.
"She had hoped this would give her a path to making something of her life, but she couldn’t help anyone from the end of a noose."
This beautifully constructed, heartfelt tale is an immersive escape into some refreshingly original magic realism.
As well as getting to see the world through the eyes of the very likable and relatable Sumi, there are some enjoyable situations seen from the perspectives of her transformations – the cat episode, in particular, will delight (and disgust) those who’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a domestic feline.
The world-building is minutely detailed and descriptive, and solidly consistent. There is a notable lack of character descriptions, and no firm dates are given, but these aspects only serve to enrich the reading experience by letting the reader’s imagination fill in the details.
The Shapewalker's Song is an understated and well-paced book and a perfect introduction to the world of fantasy, for those not yet convinced that this genre is for them. We eagerly await part two!