For me, there is a cartoonish quality to the rapidity with which things change in the shapeshifter world. Authors of such fiction sometimes offer not more than a sentence for readers to digest exactly who or what is seen before she/he/it wings into a new shape, gender, or essence. I had a dizzying experience at the opening of Emperor's Hostages by Gloria Piper.
I re-read the prologue several times and still was confused about what happens in the woods and the basic nature of the two characters. In chapter 2, the point-of-view suddenly switches into first person, and as to the identity of the narrative voice, I was clueless.
In my opinion, the overall pace needs to be slowed and care taken to be clearer, especially since multiple characters abound on every page. That said, the sentences in themselves are finely honed bits of work, with excellent imagery and action verbs.
Here is a typical paragraph, at the midpoint. "Meanwhile rumors and speculation flooded the Cloister, reaching En and Yon, two brothers newly fated by the Wheel to grub in the Cloister. They hoed to the end of the field, dropped their tools, and slid into the bushes. I alerted ben Saludin, he told Zhin, and Zhin found them. The new men hollowed out their hiding places in the bamboo. "
There is powerful writing here -short, active verbs driving the sentences - that would be invigorating to read, except for too many characters being thrown together. In this same paragraph, besides the aforementioned characters, there are "landlord knights," "servants," "the festival crowd, "and "two fugitives." Too many to keep track of and too much to digest in a short space for my comfort zone. However, this book would be an excellent read "as is" for those who can't get enough shapeshifting and rapid-fire action.
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)