I came across Cindy Borgne, the author of Native Shifter, requesting reviews on Goodreads. I rarely review paranormal romances. Yet authors that are new to me who are doing unusual twists on a familiar theme can attract my interest. I say twists in plural because this werewolf romance takes place during the American Revolution, involves a hero and heroine who are Native American, and the power of shifting is transmitted magically. It's not a virus of some kind transmitted through a bite as in most werewolf novels. So that's a good deal of conceptual originality packed into one book.
I received a digital ARC from the author in return for this review. Native Shifter is tentatively scheduled for release on October 24th.
The main reason why I try to avoid reading about werewolves is because I feel that humans who are capable of shifting into wolves should behave like real wolves when they are in wolf shape as I explained when I reviewed Wolf by Alma Alexander here. The portrayal of werewolves as uncontrollably savage perpetuates a hateful stereotype that justifies the destruction of wolves as a species. In the historical context of Native Shifter , Euro-American settlers perpetuated the identical prejudice about the uncontrollable savagery of Native Americans for the exact same reason. They wanted to justify their genocidal behavior. So there is an implicit link between Native Americans and wolves that is established in this novel. Yet when these werewolves are violent, they are violent for human reasons due to human flaws. So they are not the werewolves that I would prefer to read about, but they do interest me--not least because Borgne also shows us a Native American werewolf who refuses to engage in violence against Euro-American settlers because it's contrary to his spiritual identity.
I appreciate that Borgne invented a Native American people called the Mahasi who are enemies of the neighboring Iroquois. This implies that they are a Northeast Woodland people. My favorite fantasy author Charles De Lint has also created a fictional Native people in order to avoid writing inauthentically about a particular real Native American culture. When I ran a search for "Mahasi", I found that it referred to a type of meditation originated by a Buddhist monk named Mahasi Sayadaw. I also noticed that Borgne is consistent with standard nomenclature for Northeastern Native groups when she calls their domed habitations wigwams.
I feel that this book is potentially alternate history because if you project the impact of the spread of Native shifters, this factor alone could have radically changed North American history. This possibility is embryonic in Native Shifter, but as a science fiction fan I am always considering what might happen "if this goes on" which is a key phrase in the development of science fiction concepts. When I examined Cindy Borgne's website, I noticed that she has also written science fiction romances dealing with a hero who is a psychic on Mars. So I'd imagine that she realizes that she could produce an alternate continuity. I'll be very interested in seeing if she follows through with this idea in the sequel.