Tales from the Midnight Forest: The Shapeshifter Collection is a collection of Lisa Hofmann’s previously separately published short stories and a new previously unpublished story now collated under one theme; stories about unusual shapeshifter women. Shapeshifters have always fascinated me and I love short story collections, so when Lisa requested a review, I was happy to oblige!
This book was provided for free by the author in exchange for an honest review.
There are a few references to rape and some verbal sexual harassment from soldiers in ‘Amélie’, but nothing is explicit, and I would say it is PG-13. Likewise in ‘Anguish’ there are themes of abuse, but again it is nothing explicit.
Tales from the Midnight Forest is a wonderful collection of short stories for fans of fantasy, creative world building, shapeshifters and particularly female protagonists with spirit – which means, for me, it ticked all the right boxes! 😉 The Shapeshifter Collection contains five stories dedicated to female shapeshifters, and they couldn’t be more different from each other in terms of the nature of shapeshifting. The stories are spread out throughout history, with the synopsis listing their settings as medieval Ireland, Germany, France, and 19th century England.
The five stories are:
‘Amberflame’ takes us to a kingdom terrorised by a dragon. A midnight walk with Willa to meet her lover to meet her lover turns into a fight for her life when the dragon unexpectedly turns up after a nearby town fails to provide its tribute to appease the dangerous beast. Willa is plunged into a world of dangerous secrets and magic as she seeks to stop the dragon and reclaim her future.
‘Amélie’ takes us back in time to when the Saxons were invading lands across Europe. In one such land, a castle is under siege and a young girl, Amélie, is forced to accept the harsh reality of the situation. Her father is dead, her mother dying, and the enemy has come a long way and will take no prisoners. To stay in the castle and wait for the enemy to crash through their weakening defences is suicide, and with just the clothes on her back and a parting gift from her mother, a strange amulet each and strict instructions about it, she and her brother are ushered out through a secret entrance. It’s not so secret, though, and Amélie soon finds herself alone with just the amulet and those strange instructions to protect her…
‘Artemis’ Wings’ is an interesting story that at first glance appears to be the usual fantasy trope of a curse laid by an evil sorcerer. Artemis and her family have been cursed, forced to abandon their royal birthright and live their lives on an island, isolated from everything and everyone. That is, until something changes and Artemis learns that there’s more to the curse than she ever knew. Sometimes not everything is as it appears.
In ‘Aura’ Marielle finds herself struggling with the terrifying ability to create fire, yet no way to control it. With no one to turn to, she finds help, and surprising and terrifying answers, in a place she least expects it.
‘Anguish’ is a story about a young girl, Mary, who’s new home is full of secrets. The garden is home to a monster that only Mary can see, and no one, not even her new stepsister Amanda, believes her. The monster in the garden is the least of Mary’s worries when it is revealed what is actually happening at Asterbury Hall.
The only thing that stopped Tales from the Midnight Forest from reaching a five star for me was that after a few stories, I felt that there were too many recurring themes. Several of the heroines were just a little too similar at times, especially in their attitudes and their desires. There is an overarching theme of an unhappy home life and a need to escape it, to be free and independent. This may be completely intentional; in a lot of literature, the ability to change shape is seen as a freeing, as is a shapeshifters connection to the wild. That would make sense if these stories had originally been written as an intended collection; they weren’t. They were all written at different times and have now been collected in one work, which suggests the theme may not be intentional. Rather than the theme being comforting, I found that it made the stories a bit predictable, and that is what made Tales from the Midnight Forest less enjoyable for me.
Despite this, the level of creativity and the fantastic variety in the type of shapeshifters featured in Tales from the Midnight Forest makes it one of the best selection of shapeshifter stories I have read in a long time. Every one has a unique method of shapeshifting that has been beautifully created, and even better, there’s not a wolf shapeshifter in sight! Not that I have anything against wolf shapeshifters or werewolves, but let’s be frank, they are so overused! The mixture of mythical (dragon and phoenix), mundane (fox and raven) and unusual (bat) is just right, and there are a few more surprises not mentioned in the synopsis that you’ll just have to find out for yourself 😉
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Over to you
Thank you for reading my review for Tales from the Midnight Forest. If you’re a fan of shapeshifters or just love a good fantasy short story, then this is a collection you’ll enjoy.
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