The Shape Stealer (Black Swan Rising book 3) by Lee Carroll (book review).

‘The Shape Stealer’ sees Garet James and Will Hughes return to the 21st century, but they haven’t returned alone. Tagging along through the time portal was the evil and ancient vampire Marduk, who is bent on destroying the world. Garet is soon drawn into a mystery that spans centuries, enlisting the help of guardians sworn to preserve the timeline from those who would interfere. Crossing centuries and continents, Garet must find a way to save the world from Marduk and the manipulative John Dee. Only then will she have a chance at happiness with her one true love.


Throughout the ‘Black Swan Rising’ trilogy, I’ve been disappointed at its writing-by-numbers feel and, although this one was better than the previous two books, it didn’t manage to redeem the series. Everything just comes across as a little two-dimensional, with both characters and setting lacking any real depth.

There were moments that I really enjoyed, particularly when we were introduced to the Knights Temporal. I think the idea of an institute that monitors the timeline, where only within its walls are you immune to changes wrought by time travellers, is wonderful and I could see a whole series of stories featuring them being very successful (even if it has already been covered by books like ‘Guardians of Time’ by Poul Anderson). Unfortunately, I think this is the only part of the book that managed to elicit a full-blown grin from me.

There were also moments that really annoyed me. The worst of these was Garet’s attitude to the two versions of Will Hughes. She makes a huge deal about how the young Will she brought back through the time portal wasn’t her Will and never could be with 400 years of difference between them. Then she meets the Will she fell in love with and everything is hunky dory, even though he has lived for another 400 years since she last saw him. I’m usually pretty forgiving, but this was just lazy and it made me grumpy.

I really wanted to like this series and, right up to this final book, I kept an open mind and hoped for improvements that would make me change my opinion of the series. It was, to steal a phrase from my mother, a ‘solid ok’ kind of book. It was fine. It made sense, the plot moved along quite quickly and there were plenty of different characters to keep the reader interested. It just never managed to climb out of the mediocrity pot and become something better.

This was the first series from Lee Carroll, which is the pseudonym of a husband and wife team. I would probably be willing to give another of their books a go to see if they manage to develop their style a little further and get a bit more depth to their characters. However, at the moment it would be going somewhere pretty close to the bottom of my ‘to read’ pile.

Vinca Russell

May 2014

(pub: Bantam/Transworld. 351 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-593-06629-4

pub: Bantam/Transworld. 351 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-555382-570-1)

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