Author: Dena Landon
Years ago, the King had the shapeshifters confined to Carlbine Forest. Every birthing season, the King's priests enter Carlbine Forest and place a tattoo on the cheek of every infant; if any shapeshifter with a tattoo attempts to cross the forest's boundary, the ink in the tattoo will poison them.
But when one of the Elders has a vision that the shapeshifter Brytha will have twins, they make preparations to hide the first of the twins from the priests.
Now Syanthe is eighteen, and she is the only shapeshifter without a tattoo. Though she has been ridiculed for her difference, the time has come for her to pay her debt. The King's death magic is leaking into Carlbine Forest, and if Syanthe can't find a way to stop if from spreading, the shapeshifters will die with the forest.
I really enjoyed how this book played with the concept of magic. While shapeshifters and death magic aren't new to the fantasy genre, this is one of the first times I have seen them both appear in one book as a sort of opposition to each other: the shapeshifters promoting healing and nature, while the King's priest promoting violent, death, immortality, and the unnatural. I honestly couldn't predict where the novel was going, or how Syanthe could even begin to fight the destruction.
I also liked the little bit of romance that appeared in the book. While the romantic element isn't central to the book (and I would have honestly liked to see more between them), I appreciated that these two characters had obligations that took priority over their romance. When it came down to duty and the fates of their own homes/community, they both chose the community.
My one problem with this book: the ending. The book does a good job of tying up the story arc pretty well, and I wasn't unhappy with how things ended; however, the book leaves a lot of uncertainty about what happens next. Though the events of the book are clearly a step in the direction towards saving Carlbine Forest and the shapeshifters, there is no guarantee that suddenly everything will be okay. Syanthe also makes some significant discovers about shapeshifters, but because they are not part of her main quest, there is no resolution to these discoveries. Basically, this book is in need of a sequel (or two), but since this book was published in 2005, I'm not sure if that is a possibility.
Why I Picked Up This Book
I first saw this book in my high school library. It was on the shelf of "New Arrivals" and I loved the cover/title. It was a book that I read in one day because I got hooked.