Book: Sign of the Shapeshifter

Sign of the Shapeshifter
Dale Donovan and Linda Johns
Illustrator: Emily Fiegenshuh
2004

This is the third in the “Knights of the Silver Dragon” series. It isn’t the worst I’ve read from the series so far, but it is far from the best. There were a number of problems with the book, but the most glaring was the lack of a good plot. There just wasn’t much there to work with. The characters were done alright, they managed to remain pretty much the same people they were in the first two books, which was good. Overall, this book was unsatisfying and disappointing.

The idea of this series, as I understand it, is to provide stories about kids having Dungeons and Dragons adventures. The problem with this novel is that they aren’t having much of a D&D adventure. Only one of the monsters they meet in the book is one from the official Dungeons and Dragons books. There are literally hundreds of official monsters, many possessing the qualities needed for the plot, so I really don’t see any excuse for not using them.

The other big thing that is required in a D&D adventure is that the heroes seem at least marginally heroic (it really doesn’t take much), but this book makes it painfully clear that the writers don’t think the kids could have this very un-heroic adventure unless the adults are safely out of the way. The excuses for the adults to not be remotely involved are flimsy and feel contrived. That isn’t necessary and it felt artificial and cheapened the accomplishments of the main characters. The ending was very frustrating in this book. It felt extremely rushed and slapped together. There wasn’t a lot of plot to wrap up, but it still felt like the authors weren’t sure how to end the story. It was awkward.

The illustrations in the book were good; as good as they have been in the rest of the series. The cover is probably my least favourite so far, but the interior illustrations were extremely well done. The chapter heading illustration (one small picture that heads each chapter and is different in each book) is probably my favourite in the series thus far. It is a symbol that is important to the plot and very interesting to look at. I continue to wonder about he fact that the kids wear the same clothing every single day, but that is pretty typical of D&D (where you can’t change the clothing on the little metal figure that represents your character), so it actually fit with the concept very well.

This book isn’t very good, and I wouldn’t recommend it (even for people who don’t care about the Dungeons and Dragons aspect of the book). If you are going to read the series, read the first book and the fourth. Skip the second, third and fifth.

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