By Jean Johnson
PUBLISHED: 14 February 2013
GENRE: Fiction / Paranormal Romance
Centuries before the time of the Sons of Destiny, a female shapeshifter became the leader of the people of the Shifting Plains ...
Tava Ell Var never really knew her mother, but she did know her tragic fate at the hands of a band of cruel shapeshifters - a history set down by Tava's father as a warning about life on the Shifting Plains. But after her father is murdered, Tava encounters a Shifterai warband fighting to rid the Plains of the terrorizing bandits.
Shifterai leader Kodan Sin Siin is sympathetic to Tava's suffering, but he's determined to bring the wary young woman to the Plains. Because he knows her secret; She, like he and his men, is a shapeshifter. Once she joins them, he knows that she will see for herself the true fate that awaits her on the Plains, and most of all, lose her fear of his people. And, in time, he knows she will find her place in their fight - and by his side.
Quite honestly, the first half of the book was such a long, hard slog that I was convinced it wasn't for me and I nearly gave up. Fortunately, with the arrival of Tava and Kodan and the rest of the warband at Family Tiger's camp, the story picked up a little and I started to warm to the characters a lot more.
I do think Jean Johnson has written a book which is very different to others in the Paranormal Romance genre. Usually, it goes like this: girl meets boy, they can't stand each other but are inexplicably attracted to each other, they have sex, there's a misunderstanding/are somehow torn apart, everything gets sorted out and they commit to a proper relationship with each other.
In the case of Shifting Plains, you need to think of it as a history book rather than fiction because what Jean is doing is building a picture of the Families, how they work and live, how they interact with each other, the rules that apply etc. This is much more about learning about the history of the Shifterai than it is about the relationship that develops between Tava and Kodan.
I did find some of the writing a bit awkward. The author includes passages in italics to represent a character's inner thoughts but the extra tidbits of information these provided quite often felt very forced, or repeated things we already know, and therefore didn't sound like how a character would normally think. For example:
In fact, I'd be surprised if this Kodan doesn't plan to use this Truth Stone to reveal that fact to the Alders. After all, the terms of the contract are "...in exchange for the deaths of the bandits responsible for slaying Varamon Vel Tith of Five Springs village ..." and the odds are, this Truth Stone could be my father's Stone, liberated from the bandit's loot. So they could just go away for a short while, pretending to hunt and kill the bandits, then come back.
Although it's not my usual choice of book, I'm glad I persevered and read it through until the end. Tava and Kodan really grew on me and I found their relationship quite charming. But I'm not sure that I'd jump to read anymore set in the same World.