by Cassie Alexander, fantasy (2014)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-03794-7
Deadshifted is the fourth book in the Edie Spence series, and its very existence serves as a spoiler for the previous three books, at least in terms of which guy Edie settles down with. Whether this settling down is permanent remains to be seen, naturally, but reading this book before the previous three books would kill some of the mood if you are into the relationship aspect of your urban fantasy stories. Even if you don't care about the boys in the wild, this book has a cliff-hanger ending, however, so don't go into this one expecting a standalone book, or you'd be unhappy.
Oh, and this review would contains some major spoilers for those previous books so don't continue reading if you wish to read any of those previous three books. We can talk again once you're done.
Deadshifted is a transition book, with a plot that serves as a bridge from the previous three books to whatever the author has planned for her female protagonist Edie Spence. Edie is very human, with no special powers, but she knows her woo-woo well. She was once a resident nurse at a secret ward dedicated to the care of spooks in the neighborhood.
In this story, she is no longer working at Y4, and six months has passed since Shapeshifted. She is in a relationship with the shapeshifter Asher, who has now settled down to become a doctor, and they seem happy. When the story opens, they embark of a relaxing vacation on a cruise for Hawaii. What can go wrong?
Well, Edie quickly discovers that she is pregnant. Okay, that doesn't qualify as "really horrible news". The bad news comes in the form of a deadly plague that start killing off the passengers and the crew. Could Asher's old enemy, who is on board, behind this scheme? And can Edie, Asher, and their beloved fetus make it out of this mess alive?
Unlike previous books, this one takes place in only one location, which heightens the sense of being trapped and helpless. This is good, and the fact that the author doesn't shy away from going into dark and grim territory only make the whole sense of hapless terror more delicious to savor. Poor Edie really can't catch a break here.
Yet, the story can be frustrating to read because Asher and Edie can behave in ways that seem out of character or don't make much sense, often to drum up the conflict. This is especially noticeable when it comes to the fetus plot device: Edie would claim that she wants to protect her baby, but when the plot demands it, she is more than happy to place both she and the fetus in dangerous situations because - I guess - she really can't help wanting to save the world. In the same manner, Asher flounders in unrealistic ineptness when the plot requires him to.
I am aso not pleased with how the whole plot turns out to be a very obvious excuse to set up the next direction of this series. While what the author did here is not a crime by any means - many authors do this in their series on a regular basis, after all - Ms Alexander could have handled this with some degree of subtlety. The plot is wrapped up too easily in my opinion once it has outlived its usefulness. Pair this with the main characters' plot-driven erratic behavior throughout the book, and I get this feeling that this entire book is a half-hearted set-up to get me to keep reading the series. On one hand, I'm glad the author didn't pull a Sylvia Day and pad this book with filler nonsense just to keep the series going, and I'm also pleased that, for once, a vampire or a werewolf does not get to be the Chosen Boyfriend, but on the other hand, come on, let's not make me feel used. It's not a pleasant feeling.
As a book in its own right, Deadshifted is a readable story with a unsatisfying pay-off. As a part of the series, this one would simply be a means to proceed to the next book, shortly forgotten once it has done what it is created for. As I've said - the perfect example of a transition book. It's just sort of there, for better or worse.
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