WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
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We’ve reached the end of book two of The Shape Shifter Chronicles. Seems like I started this commentary just yesterday and I’m already finished with it. After tonight’s commentary, I will have completed novel commentary on two books. Wow, I’m moving through these quick!
Quick announcement: I’m going to be adding an afterward to the downloadable commentary on Through Storm and Night. It would take a really long time to go through all the chapters and just tinker with bits here and there. Plus, I have attention deficit disorder and it’s just way too easy for me to become distracted if I do that (which would lead to even more vagueness). If I write an afterward, I’ll be able to clarify whatever spoilers I danced around and I can upload the completed novel commentary faster (probably later on tonight or early tomorrow).
So, the final chapter: this chapter is meant to tie up any remaining story lines and set up the third novel. As I mentioned earlier in this commentary, the very last scene was added fairly late in revisions and it was the last thing I wrote for this novel (marking the first time I did that). My favorite character of the series, Blitz, makes a brief appearance. She’s not named as she’s still only an identification number (the name Blitz is first mentioned in From the Ashes). The Big Bad also makes his first appearance in this chapter. I was really happy with how that scene and the chapter itself came out. I hope readers feel (or felt) the same way.
Page 259 – 264
The sun rises on a new day, but it’s still cold as fuck. Jensen arrives at the mansion. In this scene, he is fully aware that there’s a good chance this is the last time he’ll see the mansion. Jensen can’t go without leaving Jet a note to tell him where he’s going. I purposely had Jensen leave Jet a note and not the Deverells. Jensen would be more likely to run into one of the Deverells and he doesn’t want anyone to try to talk him out of leaving.
I always knew that Orion had been the one to tell Jensen the legend of Selene, which is the most important story in guardian and shape shifter lore. I briefly considered Jet and/or Lilly would have told Jensen the story, but Jensen would have still been in a state of shock when he was staying at the mansion. His memory of his time there is a little spotty. When he was traveling with the Deverells, he would have been more healed and therefore his memories are a lot clearer.
I was happy to be able to write a scene between Shae and Jensen (albeit a short one). He feels that she deserves to know where he’s going and why.
Jensen recognizes Shae’s grief and can sympathize with it. He’s quite familiar with grief and his experienced it frequently in his life. Jensen tries his best not to wake her, but is unaware that she’s a very light sleeper (even though she insists she wasn’t sleeping).
Shae is fairly adept at reading people. She has some idea of what Jensen intends to do and normally, she would try to talk him out of it. In this case, she isn’t going to (she wants Jensen to kill the people behind the Trap, which is a first for her).
Jensen is in a very dark place at the end of Through Storm and Night. In my notes for this book (and the character notes for Jensen), I wrote that he more often relies on his mind than he does on his fists. However, at the end of this book, he is capable of murder. There’s a fair amount of violence in Jensen’s past: he hunted down most of the assassins who killed his family along with the Deverells.
Jensen’s brief stint as a thief comes in handy every now and again. The most talented and valuable shape shifters are those who can move fluidly between the six different groups (those who don’t cleanly fit into any one particular group). Shape shifters like Sly will always have an advantage over shape shifters who strictly adhere to certain groups.
I loved writing the moment where Remington startles Jensen (pages 261- 262). First of all, Remington is just chilling out with a book of Shakespeare plays and doesn’t even make his presence known until Jensen is about to leave. Jensen takes a lot of pride in his unflappable nature. He hates when someone gets the drop on him, something that almost never happens. Remington is a very quiet character. As I wrote this scene, I figured that Remington has been there the whole time. He saw Jensen enter and waited until he was about to leave again before saying anything.
“Jensen wondered if Remington ever slept. He was sure he did . . . most likely hanging upside down from a beam in the attic”  😀 Jensen is quite annoyed.
Remington isn’t going to try to talk Jensen out of leaving. He has some idea of what Jensen intends to do, but Jensen is an adult who makes his own decisions. In my character notes, I’ve written that Remington trained Jensen when he and his sister first arrived at the mansion. Remington trusts shape shifters to make their own decisions. He can guide them if they ask for his advice, but he can’t make choices for them.
Shape shifters can go longer without food than humans can, but not without water. Jensen doesn’t expect to be hungry in the near future, so he puts the food in the back. He has only one thing on his mind at the moment and that’s his sources (and which one he should contact first).
[SPOILER! I knew I wanted Electra and Jensen to go off on their own in search of answers about the Trap and Grenich. I just like these two characters working together. They’re a bit of an odd pair, but they can be a formidable one]
Because Electra doesn’t have an official position, she doesn’t have to follow the dress code as rigidly. She doesn’t usually wear a dress, never when she’s on Earth.
Electra still doesn’t particularly care for Jensen (again, she can hold a grudge and she’s still pissed about the fight they had), but she needs to get answers about the Trap. That’s her current distraction. She swallows most of her pride, but she’ll never outright beg. That’s completely against her nature.
At first, Jensen really doesn’t want to take her along. He doesn’t like being around others when in pain. However, he knows that she won’t be dissuaded (she’ll probably just follow him and use Appearing to show up in his car). Also, she has a right to know what happened.
Electra almost laughs at Jensen’s warning about his not following any rules in this search. This is a daughter of Passion. They’re not exactly known for being by the book 😉
Electra’s heavy bags: once again, this woman has led a very sheltered life. She’s never traveled before (occasionally she has stayed at the mansion, but that’s it).
Sometimes knowing someone shares your grief can be comforting. We have this strange tendency to make grief an isolating experience. Shape shifters, being slightly more social than humans are, don’t like isolating themselves. Even though Jensen intended to do this alone, part of him really needs the company (though he’d never admit it).
Jensen really doesn’t expect to return from this search for answers. He thinks it’s likely that this is the last time he’s going to see the mansion. The reader can decide whether or not he finds this a comforting thought (Jensen isn’t suicidal, he just doesn’t care if he dies. As long as he goes down fighting).
Page 264 – 266
Lilly is keeping Jet grounded. In Haunted by the Keres the reader sees how she steps in when Jet is unable to lead (you’ll have to read that book to find out why).
This is possibly the first (maybe only) time Jet is actually grateful for Sly’s presence. She’s still being a snarky pain in the ass, but it helps keep his mind off the grief.
Regarding grief: I had this idea that immortal beings would experience grief slightly differently than mortal beings. Shape shifters are much more accustomed to feelings of loss and the subsequent grief. Even though they experience grief acutely, they eventually recover from it. They can be almost paralyzed by it briefly, but it does eventually fade with time.
For guardians, grief never fades. They feel it as intensely over the years as they do after the loss. Different guardians deal with it in different ways. Not many guardians will ever experience grief, but the few who do are haunted by it. Some are better at hiding it. Guardian memory is much clearer and more vivid than other species. This way of experiencing grief is the price they pay for it.
Jet doesn’t want to know what Jensen has written to him, though he already has some idea. “What has that damn Aldridge done now?” . I really like that line. No particular reason why, it’s just funny to me 🙂
Jensen is completely honest when he writes to Jet that he’ll tell him if he finds anything useful. Jensen knows that Grenich is a threat to protectors. At his core, he’s a protector. The protectors are his people. He’ll do whatever it takes to eliminate any threat against them.
I wanted the last scenes of the protagonists to be somewhat melancholy. Yet only one leaves alone (the rest are paired).
Page 266 – 267
This was originally the final scene of Through Storm and Night. When going through edits, my brother pointed out that it felt a little too final. A more intriguing ending would be one that segued into the next novel. This scene had too much finality to it. The more open-ended scene works a lot better.
I needed one final scene between Alpha and the doctor. He has been outmaneuvered and he knows it (he has feared it for some time). He has no idea what the outcome will be and his options are now extremely limited.
The doctor needs to leave. He has stayed in one place for too long. The influence of Grenich is steadily growing in the town and if he stays any longer, he’ll be risking discovery (which would also put the rebels in grave danger).
Alpha knows they’re in a lot of trouble, but isn’t afraid or nervous. Rebels are used to adversity and they always face it with their heads held high.
The doctor warns her to run if things get bad. He really feels indebted to the rebels and wants to make sure they’re as safe as possible (no shape shifter is safe while Grenich is still active). However, retreating goes against almost everything the rebels stand for. They never run.
At this point, the doctor has one option left that he can try. It’s an extremely risky one, one he wouldn’t use if he had any other options available to him. It’s not one likely to work, but it’s all he has left. Readers don’t see this plan enacted until the opening scene of From the Ashes (the next book in the series). That’s another reason why the doctor is leaving: he needs to go somewhere isolated to put the plan into motion.
Page 267 – 271
Readers, I’m fucking ridiculously excited to write about this scene. I finally get to introduce my favorite character (briefly): Blitz! 😀 Granted, she’s still only known as 7-299 right now.
When I had to think up a new ending scene, I knew it had to take place in a Grenich laboratory.
[SPOILER! There’s a bit of a time jump that readers don’t realize until after they read From the Ashes. This was intentional]
[SPOILER! Readers are finally brought face-to-face with Set, the Big Bad]
The Big Bad looks at humans the same way humans look at insects. Most scientists and other employees are different species. Many have a reptilian appearance.
The Big Bad always looks fairly pristine. He has a couple different faces of varying ages. He prefers the normal youthful face.
The Big Bad is another character with conflicting desires. He enjoys power but wants to create chaos (he also derives power from chaos). More than anything, the Big Bad enjoys death. He almost gets a high off of death. The Big Bad enjoys watching the experiments kill because of this high. Experiments intimidate everyone but the higher ups at Grenich (and the higher ups are the only people experiments fear).
The Big Bad sees humans as disposable and frequently uses them in training simulations, where they’re killed by experiments (this is where a few of the disappearing bodies wind up).
Blitz is a slightly different character in this scene than she is in the next novel. Right now, she lacks almost all free will and awareness. She only knows how to follow orders. She’s a brutal and efficient killing machine, lacking any kind of mercy or remorse. She doesn’t even have a name (her ID is 7-299).
The Big Bad is still looking for the Key, but he know has all three possibilities. One of the most dangerous things about the Big Bad is how patient he is. He’s a man who can wait and he very rarely makes mistakes.
The female experiments are the most brutal and aggressive. This is because the Big Bad doesn’t see women as people, much less individuals. So the handlers are ordered to be harder and crueler to the females (they are seen as the weaker sex and weakness isn’t tolerated in Grenich).
[SPOILER! Readers later learn that the woman in red at the end of this scene is Set’s wife, Pyra. Unlike Set, Pyra has an impetuous side. She’s still as ruthless, power-hungry, and cunning as him though. Pyra is one of the only women Set respects. She’s the only one he sees as being close to his equal. No one will ever be his equal, but Pyra comes the closest. Pyra has the ability to control and summon fire. Readers find out why in the next novel]
The Big Bad tends to play down the size of his army in order to avoid becoming overconfident and falling into a false sense of security.
The Big Bad is often seen in extremely sterile environments. I wrote him this way to reinforce the idea that this character dislikes life immensely (life that he doesn’t control, that is). He prefers artificiality and sterility.
The Big Bad’s explanation (on page 270) of why he wants to fight the shape shifters when they aren’t weakened or distracted is really important to understanding the character. Death is a game to him, one that he’s good at and enjoys. He’s a very brutal man.
The experiments are treated like inanimate objects. They’re even bathed (hosed down actually). These shape shifters have been stripped of their rights, had their wills completely broken, and now no longer have any sense of self. All they really know is to follow orders and how to kill. This is explained/explored more in From the Ashes.
The villains are gathering their forces and are close to finding the Key that will make the Big Bad invincible. Victory is within their grasp as this novel comes to a close.
So ends commentary for the second novel of “The Shape Shifter Chronicles.”
I’m hoping to post the completed downloadable novel commentary later on tonight. If I don’t get a chance to do it tonight, rest assured that it will be up tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow I’ll write up an introduction to the commentary for “From the Ashes.” (It’s finally here! YAY!). Okay, yeah, I’m a little too excited to dive into that book. Hopefully that doesn’t make me sound like a complete pompous jackass.
The holidays are right around the corner. There’s still time to show some love to us hardworking little indie authors. I’m making gigantic puppy dog eyes right now 🙂
As always, questions and comments are welcome. Spammers can fuck right off.
Until next time . . .