Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review::Shifter Evolutions Bundle, Books 1-5 of SciFi Shifter Dystopia Romantic Suspense by Ami Blackwelder

Shifter Evolutions Bundle, Books 1-5 of SciFi Shifter Dystopia Romantic SuspenseShifter Evolutions Bundle, Books 1-5 of SciFi Shifter Dystopia Romantic Suspense by Ami Blackwelder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shifter Evolutions Bundle, Books 1-5 of SciFi Shifter Dystopia Romantic Suspense by Ami Blackwelder

I really enjoyed reading this collection of books and my enjoyment is what saved it from being tossed to the side. This is one of those sets of books you can learn to love-hate. The story is a good tale well told in many ways, but there are style choices that seem constantly to be at odds with that and that's what kept it from being a five star collection for me.

The books themselves appear to have been written in a rather strange order. In this collection they show up chronological- which is good- but it seems they were written in a much different order. The last or fifth story was the first written while the first appears to be the last or fifth written. The third is the second written and the forth is the third and the second is the forth. But for sanity they are in chronological order to the dates of the occurrences in the story. The actual sequence they were written in serves mostly as a curious thing to keep in mind in regards to some of the style choices. For me the reason I highlight this is because I liked the last book in this series which was the first written and it is written in a different style from the others.

The fifth book, the one I liked the most, is written in first person POV from the character April. I think because it was easy to identify with her and what was happening to her and the realization of what was happening around her brought me more fully into the story than the other four books.

The four other books are written in what looks like close third or multi-third POV. If we were to subscribe the the notion of head hopping then I would think this book qualifies so for those who are annoyed by head hopping be warned. This seems to be the style choice for this set of the first four in the series and it took me a while to get used to it. Even more than that though is that there are times when the narration steps away and the reader is given more information than the present close third POV should know and it is close to being Omniscient Third POV. This could possibly be considered the subjectivity/objectivity axis and after I read for a while and understood what was going on it was easier to read. This style is unusual to what I normally read but it seems, from the little I have seen, to be used in many different types of Romance novels and a few of the Horror or Paranormal Genre. After getting acclimated to it, the choice does seem to work well for these stories.

The problem for me is that I couldn't get enough focus on any character to get into the story through the characters and had to rely on the story itself to draw me in. In this case the themes of prejudice and oppression of those who are different and the struggles for power within the oppressive government forces and even the interaction within those oppressed were all enough to keep the story interesting.

An easy comparison in the first story in this series would be to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I chose this because there is a similarity in the atmosphere at the beginning to that which was in both versions of that movie. Also the first movie from the 1950's could compare as a first person account whereas the more recent version seemed to have been produced as a multi close third type of story which is what this novels style took on. You have this same feeling that something has happened and something might be visiting our planet, but it is all quiet and mostly normal while the bits and pieces of evidence begin to pile up. This story-the 2020 timeline starts with Uri and Julie (Uri shows up later in other parts) and their friends. We will be introduced to Samantha and Raul (Who will be carried through out most of the series)Frenier, Marn, Dray, and Lane (all show up throughout)- Most of these are part of the SCM Shifter Counter-insurgency Military. Then we have a whole list of alien names that are relate to colors since they initially are identified by their different colors. Those alien's names will change when they take on human personalities.

Captain Raul who eventually becomes a general is insane for power and has an unreansonable prejudice against the Shifters. Samantha Croon is a scientist who lost her brother, she thinks that the Shifters killed him and she's out for revenge. A tragedy in the five stories is that she never finds out who killed her brother although the reader does.

Lieutenant Marn is important to the stories because he works under Raul and has a daughter, Melissa, who will also work for the SCM. Melissa shows up in all five stories. To go into too much more detail might give up too much to spoil the story.

The stories all contain an element of tragic love amid the atmosphere of hate and bigotry. The hate and bigotry drive Raul to lack any sense of morals or justice in his quest for power. Everyone caught within his wake is either captivated by mutual desires for power or out right fear of the mad man. It's interesting to note that his quest will ultimately lead him to becoming in all ways worse than his perceived enemy.

The aliens are mostly on a quest to survive although they get caught up in the tragedies just as much as all the humans. And the human population is stuck between with reliance on the military and Raul to guide them with accurate intelligence and superior power. The stories constantly pose that question of how far do we let our leaders take us before we become responsible for the criminal injustice that they commit.

Initially the aliens are also to blame because they approach life on earth almost in a Pollyanna or Candide type of naivete that causes them to treat the military threat almost like a game at the beginning. Once again in the middle are humanity and eventually the Hybrids that the aliens produce.

Ami Blackwelder has a lot of five star stuff in this piece and the thing that dissipates it for me is the style of the first four novels pushed me far enough away that I had to rely on every other element besides the characters because there was no single character that I could feel for or feel with throughout until the final story with April. I suppose that this does create the effect of more closely examining the issues that Ami is addressing in the stories, which is one plus to the style choice.

This is good thought provoking reading for any lovers of Dystopic Romances and some who like SFF and enjoy suspense thrillers.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next Shifter novel.

J.L. Dobias

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