The Magic series by Ilona Andrews has never shied from reinventing concepts–sometimes repeatedly–and the shapeshifters are the perfect example. From extending the concept to any mammalian species, creating loupism, to developing beastkin, these books have constantly evolved the traditional portrayal of shapeshifters. In Magic Bleeds this is done yet again when Kate meets Naeemah, a werecroc.
Jim nodded. “He says the same thing: scales, red eyes, tail. I’ve smelled a similar scent before.”
“What was it?”
Jim grimaced. “A croc.”
Shapeshifter crocodiles. What was the world coming to?
As established in the first book, Magic Bites, shapeshifters are the result of the Lycos Virus–or Lyc-v–which plays mix and match with human and animal DNA. This is how you get shapeshifters other than werewolves as well as the beastkin–children of animals who contracted Lyc-V and turn into a human. However, it’s also established that Lyc-V only works in mammals. So, how do you get a shapeshifting croc? Magic.
While none of the books detail how, it’s made clear that reptilian shapeshifters do occur through magical means which explains Naeemah’s existence. But such shapeshifters aren’t associated with Atlanta’s Pack–or any pack–which makes you wonder; why is Naeemah protecting Kate?
“I let you out, and I’m do some answers. Who hired you?”
“Hugh d’ Ambry.”
Hugh d’ Ambry is the Preceptor of the Order of Iron Dogs and warlord to Roland, Kate’s biological father who’d love to get his hands on her and kill her. In Magic Strikes Kate battled alongside the Pack in the Midnight Games against the Rakshasas who’d been sent by Roland to destroy the Pack. He’d had Hugh give them a devastating sword forged out of his blood which would’ve turned the battle if it had been used. It wasn’t. Kate impaled herself on the blade and used her own blood to destroy it. Good news: the shapeshifters survived. The bad news: Hugh was watching.
It made sense in a twisted way. Hugh had seen me shatter the sword. He was either actively gathering information about me or planning to gather it, and he put a bodyguard in place to make sure nothing happened to me meanwhile. With my history, he ran the risk of standing on Roland’s carpet explaining that he had found his long-lost daughter, but she got herself killed before he could gather enough evidence to prove her identity. That would fly.
Hugh isn’t stupid. He knows that–even with the shattered sword–he’ll need evidence of Kate’s parentage before he brings this news to Roland. And anyone could deduce that a woman whose willing to impale herself on a sword for her friends is probably not going to have a long life expectancy, That is why Hugh tasked Naeemah to guard Kate, a tall order since Kate’s Aunt is busy trying to kill her while simultaneously tearing Atlanta apart.
Despite her orders, Naeemah doesn’t like Hugh and is willing to side with Kate against her Aunt which is a relief. Because, as interesting as a shapeshifting croc is and keeping in mind the danger that Hugh posses, Kate has bigger problems. After all, being exposed to her father will mean little if Kate is already dead.
Disclaimer: I do not own the images or book quotations used in this post and have no claim to them.