So You Think You Want to be a Shifter
by Nancy Holland
Everyone loves a shifter story. Who wouldn’t want to be a horse or an eagle? And who wouldn’t fall in love with someone who was as protective as a wolf or as strong as a bear. Even as an adult, I sometimes still think I’d like to be a cat shifter (a snow leopard, maybe, since I live in Minnesota). I’d love to be able to scare the heck out of bullies and other bad guys. But my occasional revenge fantasies, and most shifter stories I’ve read, assume the shifter has some control over when they shift and what they do once they have. What would it be like to find yourself trapped inside an animal body against your will — with the animal’s brain in control?
That was how I set up the shifter aspect of Felyn’s Curse when I wrote the first book in the Witch King trilogy, Thalgor’s Witch. Given that foundation, I started the second book with a scene that tries to describe Felyn’s experience as a panther. Not only does her shape change, her body moves differently in the world — four legs instead of two, claws instead of hands, her senses of hearing and smell sharpened. She also has an almost uncontrollable impulse to hunt, kill, and devour whatever she can. But what do those meals of raw meat, fur, and bones feel like in her mouth and stomach when she becomes human again? And what if the prey that presented itself was human? A child? Someone she loved?
I’ve read shifter stories where that kind of regret was part of a character’s make-up, so this is nothing new. Still, most of the shifters I’ve read have liked being shifters overall and often had someone who mentored them in how to control it. Felyn has no shifter community. In fact, any other panthers she encounters see her as a threat and attack her, sometimes brutally. Her human community might kill her if they knew what she became. Worse, her curse seems a pointless punishment for something she caused merely by existing. Until she finally learns that maybe it had a purpose after all.
My negative take on the shifter phenomenon is more than simply contrary. It was partly the result of really trying to imagine what it would be like to inhabit an animal’s body and partly required by the plot of the story, since Felyn stops shifting at the end of the book. Most shifters I’ve read would regret losing their power. They might even regard that as the curse. For Felyn to have her HEA, she needed to feel relief, not regret, at the loss of her power to shift.
So, would you enjoy being a shifter? What would be your animal shape of choice? After writing Felyn’s Curse, I’ve decided I’d prefer a pampered housecat to a predator in the wild.
Book Blurb from Felyn’s Curse:
Can love and sacrifice conquer a curse?
When Felyn was a young, defenseless witch, she was cursed to live as a shape shifter—a deadly panther. She might have been rescued and raised by a noble and powerful leader, but she lives in fear she will hurt those she loves in her animal form so each full moon she hides deep in the forest. But how can she refuse her adoptive father’s plea for an arranged marriage with a new ally? After all, it’s temporary and in name only…
Varz agrees to an arranged marriage reluctantly because he needs the military and diplomatic alliance. He has secrets and a growing power struggle back home. He’s relieved he need only marry the young witch for a year until he meets his bride. Felyn is beautiful and intelligent and not easy to ignore, but Varz is a man of his word. His vow to leave his bride untouched will be the hardest one he has had to keep.
More about the Author
Nancy Holland recently began to live her dream as a full-time writer. Her heroes and heroines want to make the world a better place, struggle to change their lives, and learn to trust each other. After studying books by people from other times and places, she loves to explore foreign cities where she can touch the reality behind their words. Connect with her here: