The exciting first novel in Mickey Zucker Reichert's acclaimed shapeshifter saga
Pursuing an escaped white lab rat from his college biology lab, Benton Collins - a graduate student - follows the rodent into a storeroom and through a secret gateway into another world whose inhabitants are shapeshifters capable of transforming from human to animal form.
In pursuit of what he believes to be an escaped lab rat, graduate student Benton Collins stumbles into the alternate reality of Barakhai in this highly entertaining debut of a new series from fantasy maven Reichert (Flightless Falcon; the Renshai Trilogy; etc.). The white rat turns out to be Zylas, a resident of a world called Barakhai, where half of one's life must be spent in animal form. It's a lesson that Collins learns too late, after his hunger and Boy Scout training lead him to kill, butcher, cook and eat an incredibly tame rabbit. When he's immediately arrested and imprisoned, he finds out that his dinner was not just a rabbit but Joetha, a "sweet old woman." Charged with the capital crime of cannibalism, he faces hanging the next morning. But in a far from unexpected twist, he's rescued, since he's been lured to Barakhai for a reason that won't be accomplished if he's dead. Zylas the rat/man and Falima the horse/woman, among others, need his help in their struggle against Barakhai's rulers, who are the only residents of the world who don't switch form. In a meeting with a dragon/woman, Prinivere, Collins learns that this switching of forms is actually an ancient curse and only the theft of a magic stone can save them from their dual existence. Reichert, who raises livestock on her 40-acre Iowa farm, treats the reader to a credible and well-executed escape. Fans of light fantasy and animal rightists will eagerly await further volumes in the series. - Publishers Weekly