Tough Traveling – Shapeshifting


Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn is the mastermind of Tough Traveling. What’s Tough Traveling? Pretty much, it’s a weekly feature on Thursdays where we dig around to come up with examples of common tropes in fantasy, using Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as our inspiration and guide. Nathan has invited one and all to join in the fun, so feel free to come up with your own lists and add the link on Nathan’s weekly post, which will also contain (unleash) the next weeks theme. So let the fun begin …

This weeks theme?


SHAPESHIFTING is frequent among both WERES and MAGIC USERS. The usual form taken is that of a WOLF, but lions, eagles, serpents, owls, and cats are common too. In all cases the rule is that the shapeshifter cannon stay too long in animal form without actually becoming that animal.


18774021Shapeshifters in The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

Original/Natural Form: Looks human (but is actually not quite human, longer lifespan, ability to shift, etc)

Shifted Form: Still looks human, but can take the appearance of other people

This shifting isn’t so much to animals, but changing physical appearance so they can essentially look like a copy of another person. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s a quote from the blurb: a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.” Oh, and this ‘shifter’ has a much longer lifespan, so his terror spans generations. 


140671Shapeshifter in The Black Company by Glen Cook

Original/Natural Form: Human

Shifted Form: Whatever he feels like (from what I remember)

How does a military fantasy use a shapeshifter? Imagine the possibilities, the ways in which he can stealthily infiltrate enemy lines. Imagine a shapeshifter that can turn into a horse. During war. Hmmmm…. sounds like a useful ally, wouldn’t you say?


9674335The Animal Key in Locke And Key (Keys to the Kingdom) by Joe Hill

Original/Natural Form: Human

Shifted Form: Animal of their choosing

This one is a bit different, as the ability to shift is contained in a key. But, if you hold the key and use it to open a certain, you can shift as you pass through it. Bode gets to fly with a flock of birds. Dodge got to turn into a wolf. The catch here is you need the key in order to change back, so you don’t spend the rest of your days as a bird! Gah!


19549841Dragons in Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Original/Natural Form: Dragon

Shifted Form: Human

Dragons that can give themselves human form. This way they can walk amongst us, but to make sure people still recognize them, they still have to have visual indications that they are actually dragons and not people. This allows them to convene with humans and take part in politics, give us the security that we are being treated as equals. But are we, really? These are still dragons, you know.


PrintWerewolves in Soulless (Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger

Original/Natural Form: Human

Shifted Form: Wolf

What can I say. I wound up with a werewolf on my list. As usual, vampires find they stink. They change with the full moon. Pretty standard stuff. I really wanted to avoid werewolves (not because there’s anything wrong with them, it was just a personal challenge ), but well, time dictates I include one. 😀 At least I included one from a Steam-punk setting! So, there’s dirigibles as well. And mechanical devices to do cool things. It’s certainly not a standard werewolf book.

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27 thoughts on “Tough Traveling – Shapeshifting”

  1. I included Soulless too! Definitely not your typical werewolf book. Actually, I haven’t continued the series because I found it to be heavier on the romance, and I think I’ll have to be in a certain mood for it. When Alexia and Maccon were imprisoned in a dingy grubby dungeon with their lives in danger, and yet still found themselves capable to get horny for each other right there on the floor, well, I knew where their priorities were 😛

    Seraphina was a great inclusion too! Shapeshifting dragons, now why didn’t I remember that?
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Tough Traveling: ShapeshiftingMy Profile

    1. Yeah, I kinda wanted to smack the characters for that ridiculous romance part of the book. But I actually read the series back to back. I was in a more tolerant mood than sometimes. But, I still wanted to smack them. (ooops). OK, maybe not literally smack them, just cut that part of the book. 🙂
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Tough Traveling – ShapeshiftingMy Profile

  2. Ooohhh, good call with the Carriger and Seraphina. One of the first fantasy books that I ever loved (besides Narnia . . . which ALSO has a dragon shifter . . . kind of . . . Eustace . . . does that count?) was Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde. LOVE the idea that dragons have a human form too. I’m sure the others are good too, but I haven’t read them yet 😉
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Question: Do You Actually Get Around To Reading Your “Someday” Pile?My Profile

  3. This is a great list. The Black Company shapeshifter slipped my mind, which I’m totally ashamed to admit since I’m a big fan of the series. One thing I have to totally agree with Nathan on is that is your graphic at the top is absolutely great. Mind if I steal it? ; )
    Wendell(@Bookwraiths) recently posted…TOUGH TRAVELING — SHAPESHIFTERSMy Profile

    1. Thanks! And I don’t care if you steal my graphic. But I was planning on cleaning it up. That was a 5 minute hack job to my larger graphic. 😀 And I can’t take credit for any of the artistic style, I just found it on DeviantArt (I made an Art Credit page for the couple of things I’ve use from there to try and give the artists some recognition. If anyone chooses to look it up).
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Tough Traveling – ShapeshiftingMy Profile

  4. How on earth did I forget the String Diaries – I’ve only just read it – and it’s such a unique choice!
    Still not read the Glen Cooke – oops!
    I really like the look of Seraphina – didn’t realise the dragons could take human form in that – I nearly put a similar notion from Feist’s the Magician – there’s a dragon in that story that takes female form – it’s a great idea.
    Lynn 😀
    Lynn recently posted…‘I’ve got you, under my skin….’ tough travelMy Profile

  5. This week’s topic is an Urban Fantasy reader’s dream! Normally I struggle to come up with one or two books, while as this time around it’s a challenge to ONLY list 5. Hehe Off the top of my head I’d have to go with The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater, Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld, Dani Harper’s Changelings, Kelly Meade’s loup-garous, and Molly Harper’s Naked Werewolves
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Stompin’ To The Beat with Celia Breslin + Giveaway #StompvsRompMy Profile

  6. Definitely checking out Locke and Key because OMG, that cover is lovely. I have Seraphina on my TBR but still finding the right time to read it. Did you like it? There were only two reasons that I’ve picked it up; 1. Dragons 2. the hype. 😀 As for your other books, I’ve never heard of them. :

    Thanks for sharing!
    Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens recently posted…Tough Travelling {3}: ShapeshiftingMy Profile

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