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  • Great concept but fell flat

    The concept for this was pretty amazing and intrigued me right away. I really wanted to see people turning into animals and how that was incorporated in their lives. These animal shifters or Traders seem to all be wealthy and successful and I wanted to understand how they used their animal skills to their benefit. Did businessmen turn into lions and terrify their rivals into submission? Did racoon shifters make excellent thieves? Did hawk shifters work as military scouts using their excellent vision to spot the enemy? There were so many potential scenarios that I was eager to see explored. Unfortunately the shifting/Trading played a very small part in the story. No one changes to their animal form until about 40% in and even then it is anti-climactic. The animal forms seem to have little or no influence on the people’s lives which was really disappointing. There is little reason or significance to the Trading and it seems to have no consequence other than having the urge to swim in the river. There is no explanation for how this class of people became wealthy or why. For such a hugely exciting element it was tragically underused and under explored. One smaller feature that drove me crazy was how every single person mentioned, even if they are completely unimportant and referred to only in passing are distinguished by their race. It was completely unnecessary and had absolutely no bearing on anything and it took me right out of the story each time. Oddly there seems to only be black and white people in New York. There is a mention of one Asian family of acrobats and one Romani woman but I couldn’t understand how it was possible that there were no other races in the city at this time. Why the extreme emphasis on black vs. white? It felt very strange. While the story had great potential it didn’t live up to any of it and was a disappointment for me. It was readable but not super engaging and the weird emphasis on race really bothered me. I’m not sure what the intention was behind that but it left a bad taste in my mouth and tainted the whole book. This one definitely sounded better than it actually turned out to be. Thank you to Tor Books for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.

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