Shifters and Glyphs

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Wolves and Roses. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Shifters and Glyphs was written by Christina Bauer and first published in 2018. It tells the continuing story of Bryar Rose, a teenage girl who has the rare ability to use every kind of magic, as she tries to prevent all magic from disappearing from the world. The novel forms the second full-length instalment of the Fairytales of the Magicorum series, following on from Wolves and Roses (2017) and the novella Magic and Midtown (2018).

Bryar Rose thought that her troubles were over when she defeated Jules. She found out that she was a rare Trilorum (a person with the powers of a witch, a fae and a shifter), awoke her inner wolf and found a loyal mate in Knox. Yet her nightmares have been getting worse. Every morning she wakes up terrified and yet cannot remember why.

Things take a downward turn as she starts to attend a magical school for the first time. She nearly gets expelled on the first day when the doors to each wing refuse to open for her and Knox suddenly gets sick, gradually seeming to lose his Warden powers. Through this, Bry learns two terrible truths. Firstly, the fountain of magic will activate in a few days and, if she does not find it in that time, it could fall into the hands of evil monsters called the Shadowvin. Secondly, Knox’s illness is magical and she could very well be the cause.

Unsure of what she can do to help, Bry pours all of her efforts into locating the fountain. Her quest will take her across Europe and back in time as she learns about the origin of the three schools of magic. It quickly becomes apparent that she is the only one who can prevent all magic from fading from the world. However, it may require for her to make a terrible sacrifice…

Before I talk about Shifters and Glyphs, let’s just very quickly take a look at the novella that came before it. Moonlight and Midtown is a very short novella that bridges the gap between Wolves and Roses and its sequel. It’s a cute and often funny story that does not have much by way of a plot but focuses on Bry’s attempts to get her inner wolf under control.

While I would not call it a necessary read, it does set up a couple of important plot points for Shifters and Glyphs. These include the origins of Bry’s magical outfit that does not tear when she shifts and the foreshadowing of her nightmares. Both of these are explained in full within Shifters and Glyphs, yet I still would recommend giving the novella a try if you enjoyed the first book. It’s light, fun and currently only 49p for the eBook on Amazon, so you really can’t go wrong.

Anyhow, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the main event. Sadly, I did not warm to Shifters and Glyphs in the way that I did its prequel. While Wolves and Roses had its share of problems, it was still a unique and entertaining novel that kept my attention throughout. Shifters and Glyphs failed to address the problems of its precursor and unfortunately evolved a few further issues on the side.

Yet, please don’t think that it was all bad. I still really do like the idea of Bauer’s universe. The concept of the “fairy tale templates” is an intriguing one, yet I still do not think that the novel adequately explores what this means. While a lot of faerie tale characters have a tendency to die or lead miserable lives (Sleeping Beauty included), the characters in the novel don’t seem overly worried about their futures or inhibited by their fates. For example, we meet one character in this novel whose template is the Wicked Queen from Snow White. Yet she is a good guy with a pet raven. It’s not clear exactly what will happen to turn her from this into a vain character who is destined to be murdered by a handsome prince.

If a little bit of depth was added to this concept, I feel that the novel could grow to be something truly special. Yet the shallow world building is not my biggest problem with Shifters and Glyphs. The repetition that I criticised in Wolves and Roses has only gotten worse in this novel. The chapters almost feel episodic as Bauer repeats the same pieces of information over and over. That Knox’s illness is potentially Bry’s fault (though she will not accept that). That the fountain will activate on the Autumn Equinox. That Elle can’t use magic in case it alerts her wicked stepmother to her location. I’m a firm believer that readers aren’t idiots and therefore don’t need to be reminded about important plot points every ten pages. This level of repetition is completely unnecessary and only serves to bog the story down, making it far longer than it needs to be.

The novel also loses a bit of the bigger picture this time around as its focus is so squarely on Bry’s adventure. Although early chapters set up the fact that she is nervous to be attending school for the first time, we don’t get to see a single lesson. Bry spends less than a morning at the school before she has her first encounter with the Shadowvin and is forced to head to Paris in search of a McGuffin that will lead her to the fountain. Because of this, we really lose sight of the urban fantasy setting of Wolves and Roses. This book isn’t about the Magicorum living alongside humanity. It’s about a cross-Europe magical adventure.

However, gripes aside, the point that Bry leaves for Paris is when the story really starts moving. The book did maintain a decent pace and certainly kept my attention throughout. Bry has a strong narrative voice and I enjoyed following her adventure. However, I did feel that the novel gave the twist away a little early. I figured out where the fountain was from the very first clue, which made the climatic reveal feel a bit underwhelming.

I also found the final battle against the Shadowvin to be confusing. While it was certainly action packed, it was not overly clear what happened with regards to the fountain and the mission to restore magic to the world. While I won’t go into exactly what I think happened here for fear of spoilers, I will just say that I felt that the decision to focus on Bry and Knox in the last few chapters, and not the bigger picture, left me confused as to whether or not she was ultimately successful. Hopefully, we will find out for sure in the next instalment.

In terms of characterisation, I also felt that the novel was a little weak. Given the urgency of Bry’s mission, I felt that too much of the early story was devoted to her relationship with Knox. Even when he started to get sick and Bry was told that he would die in three days if she did not get away from him, she staunchly refuses to leave his side. I mean, if you were really worried about your boyfriend, would you want to take the risk?

I also found Bry’s inner wolf to be a little frustrating. This spirit animal is given its own voice within the story and the things that it fixates on are often at odds with what is happening, such as it ranting about wanting to bite things while Colonel Mallory is explaining the plot. While the wolf could be entertaining, I largely found myself wishing that it would shut up. Every other sentence that it utters is about how great, wise and handsome Knox is, as well as loudly voicing its desire to mate with him and have cubs. This got old very quickly.

Shifters and Glyphs also did not develop the supporting cast as much as I would have liked. As Alex and Elle don’t really appear that much in the story, they aren’t really given a lot of time to show off their strengths. Similarly, a lot of the side characters from the previous story – including Knox’s “pack”, Az, Scarlett and Avianna – are quick to drop out of the plot. At least the villains were a little more satisfying. While I was worried that the Shadowvin seemed initially shallow, the novel does slowly build up a backstory for them that is rather satisfying. Still, I was left wondering exactly what the Void was supposed to represent. This was not really made clear in the climax, so I hope that it is explained in the future.

Anyhow, I think that I’ve probably made my point. All in all, I was really disappointed by Shifters and Glyphs as I did not really think that it resolved any of the narrative and world building issues that I found in Wolves and Roses. Still, as the next book is apparently going to focus on Elle rather than Bry, I am a little curious to see where this story will go next.

Moonlight and Midtown can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

Shifters and Glyphs can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog Stats

  • 67,458 awesome people have visited this blog

© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

All novels reviewed on this site are © to their respective authors.

%d bloggers like this: