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Book Review: Shifting Darkness by Kate Wendley

May 30, 2017

Shifting Darkness is the fourth book in the A Forest Of Darkness series, and it has a really intriguing premise - a shapeshifter hero who can't shift and is plagued by debilitating weakness. Vince is also Asian, ticking off another diversity box for the book.

 

Slight spoiler; I suspected from the beginning that Vince's disability would have some Magical Solution, and I was right. While Vince's struggles with his weakness and inability to shift are well written throughout the book, paralleling many of the struggles people with disabilities face in life, Magical Fixes are disastrously ableist. They don't exist for real people in real life and writing one in here basically annuls any Diversity Points the author has earned for having a disabled hero in the first place.

 

I don't have a disability myself. I was struggling to express the issues I had with this matter, so I sat down and had a discussion about this book with a couple of friends who DO have physical disabilities, and I'm going to reproduce here a couple of their comments.

 

"This is a trope I like to call 'Using Disability as a Life Lesson'. Commonly used in romance fiction (and more recently Christian-themed movies), the character either dies from a disability or chronic disease to teach another character a lesson or the character is magically cured and serves the purpose of teaching that character a life lesson. It drives me [bleep][bleep], mostly because it's a reinforcement of the societal norm that Disabled Lives Aren't Worthwhile."

 

"People with lifelong disabilities have adjusted and most of us have reached a point where we gain people who love us for us and if someone new can't see how awesome we are, [bleep] them."

 

(About Vince's anger and frustration with his physical struggles) "I have a problem with *that* just because that perpetuates the People With Disabilities Are Angry All The Time trope."

 

While I really do applaud Kate Wendley's efforts to have a disabled main character, she really needs some beta reviewers who live with disabilities to go through her work, because the ones I talked to basically said "She's Getting It Wrong."

 

I had some other issues with Shifting Darkness too. While the writing is for the most part very good, there seems to be an awful lot of the story that is 'carried forward' from other books. Anthony is in the book very nearly as much as Penny, Vince's love interest, and there are entire chapters devoted to what I call Other Stuff Going On which really has nothing to do with Penny and Vince's romance at all.

 

At the end of the day, I have to say that I finished the book feeling annoyed at the ableist issues, and I don't think I'd care to read any of the author's other works.

 

Two stars.

Shifting Darkness is available now. 

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through ReadingAlley.

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