Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Shape Stealer (Black Swan Rising #3) by Lee Carroll, Carol Goodman

When we last we left Garet James, she had finally made it back to the present time to find that she had not returned to the present with her love the 400 year old Will Hughes, but a younger and human version of him. Will justified this decision by suggesting that he was giving Garet the best of himself by sending his younger version rather than himself, and thus dedicated the next 400 years to erasing his mistakes so that he wold be worthy of Garet's love.  Unfortunately for Garet, dealing with a man 400 years out of time is not her only issue. In the infamous John Dee as well as Marduk - an ancient
Babylonian deity have followed her back and have vowed to collapse the world's economy and bring and end to the world as they know it.  

Of all three of the books thus far, The Shape Stealer is by far the most convoluted and over written.  We know that Will fancies himself a poet; however, the amount of bad poetry gracing the pages The Shape Stealer, was absolutely painful.  It was enough to make wonder if the authors decided to use poems they were unable to otherwise publish. 

The dank and murk of these four walls appall,
No matter if a jail, or woe-soaked tomb:
Time’s dreadful to me as it  

slowly crawls,

Just like mites on
blackened walls. This 

Belongs to Satan' corpus;
we must flee

Or we'll be born again
as something foul,

And Garet, suffer Marduck. I 
can see

In mind's eye how that beast
without a soul

Craves vipering her blood to
make him whole.

a thing of such malevolence
that Dee,

Though sinister himself, will
shriek and flee

Yet now, if only Kepler might

And use his genius for poor
mankind's sake,

We might be saved.  and
Marduck take a Fall.

Did you find that painful?  Well, there's a lot more of that in the book.  I found myself just skipping ahead each time I came across a poem, thankful that the poems were in italics, thus warning me of the torture up ahead. If I had wanted to read a book of poetry, I would have bought a book of poetry.  Though poetry was used as a way for both Wills to declare their love of Garet, such an expression could surely have come in a less tedious form. 

Part of the problem with The Shape Stealer is that it simply had too much going on.  For antagonists we had John Dee and Marduck and the Malefactor.  Caroll and Goodman spent 2 books building up Dee and Marduck as the antagonists to worry about and yet they were easily dispatched.  The Malefactor came out of nowhere and again, easily found their defeat.  The groups of antagonists seemed to wander about with little purpose beyond generally causing havoc, rather than an overarching plan. For a creature that was created in ancient Babylon, Marduck behaved more like an angry petulant toddler. An antagonist should be unlikeable because they're evil, not because they read like they need a nap. 

Garet seemed to spend most of her time alternately irritated with young Will (and with good reason) and mooning over old Will.  In the first two novels, Garet actively investigated and followed clues.  She was aware and active but in The Shape Stealer, Garet isn't actually active, as much as following breadcrumbs around without a real plan.  The plot is dependent upon coincidences and weak connections, which makes it far from compelling reading.

Even the ending was sorely disappointing. We are told that Garet will live out her life with Will and we are told to just assume that the Malefactors will be dealt with successfully.  If The Shape Stealer were a man, I'd be forced to ask, "I shaved my legs for this?"  More than anything, it just feels like this story ran out of steam and the authors just slapped it together to fulfill a contract.  Someone should also tell the authors that you can only stretch a Star Trek reference so far. We get it already.  The only reason to read The Shape Stealer is to see how this trilogy ends but I warn you, it may well erase any positive feelings you have about the previous books.  The best I can recommend is to wait until it appear at your local library and then be prepared to apologize to your library card.