The Wanderers #1
Published by Sky Pony Press on September 1, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
The author/publisher provided a free copy of the book for review purposes - thank you! Receiving a review copy does not guarantee a positive review and therefore do not affect the opinion or content of the review.
Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.
In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.
Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.
Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?
Kate Ormand takes a unique twist in The Wanderers, following a group of nomad shapeshifters traveling under the guise of a circus. Flo has been part of the circus ever since she was young but has always thought of what the world would be like if she were not a part of the circus. When she accidentally reveals what the circus really is to the public, shapeshifter hunters attack and take away everything she has ever known.
There aren’t a lot of shapeshifter books out there – all the ones I’ve come across so far typically have characters that shift into wolves (technically werewolves are like shapeshifters. They’re interchangeable). The Wanderers, on the other hand, don’t really have wolves (I don’t think there are any here). Ormand takes the concept and expands the idea of shapeshifter to include all kinds of animals – bears, seals, tigers, horses, etc. It’s a breather to have all kinds of animals instead of the usual furry four-legged ones. Have I mentioned there’s a shapeshifting parrot? Uber-cool.
Flo (I started imagining her as that Progressive chick) has elements of a good character – she’s realistic and brave, even though she’s watching her back constantly for hunters. She has a constant inner battle with a desire and curiosity to see the world outside of the circus but has no clue if she wants to take that opportunity when she’s old enough to be offered a life outside. But Flo is a bit of a mystery to me, and so are most of the shifters.
The Wanderers feels more like a discovery book – no one aside from the “elders” know how the circus originated in the first place. Flo and the other shifters seem as though they’ve been there all their lives – they all have a similar past and their way to the circus are all similar. The book becomes more of a survival book after the attack and the remaining shifters work together (albeit the tolerable tension some have towards Flo) to escape the clutches of the hunters going after them. In the midst of it all, Flo discovers a disturbing plot and sets about breaking it before other shifters get hurt as well.
Ormand pulls off an ending similar to Bruchac’s in Killer of Enemies – there’s a solid ending, but it’s very open-ended and lots of things could potentially happen. The ending to The Wanderers feels very fitting with the story considering the title and the concept. Even though I’m not a huge fan of this book, Ormand has certainly left a mark with just the entire idea.