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Hidden in Sight
Julie E. Czerneda
DAW Books, 493 pages

Hidden in Sight
Julie E. Czerneda
Julie Czerneda is a Canadian science fiction writer who lives at the edge of a forest in Orillia, Ontario, with her husband and two children. A former researcher in animal communication, she has also written non-fiction that ranges from biology texts to the use of science fiction in developing literacy.

Julie E. Czerneda Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Beholder's Eye
SF Site Review: In the Company of Others
SF Site Review: Ties of Power
SF Site Review: A Thousand Words For Stranger
SF Site Review: Beholder's Eye
Excerpt: A Thousand Words for Stranger interview

Past Feature Reviews
A review by James Seidman

Hidden in Sight is the third book in Julie E. Czerneda's Web Shifters series. The first book in this series, Beholder's Eye, was an excellent novel with a satisfying ending, and a story that could easily stand alone. The fascinating protagonist of this series, combined with Czerneda's talented writing, makes Hidden in Sight a good book. However, coming after Beholder's Eye, it has a tough act to follow.

As in the previous books, the story focuses on Esen-alit-Quar, a shapeshifter who can adopt the shape of any known species. Although her kind is immortal, Esen herself is only several hundred years old. Much of this time was spent in relative isolation, so she is still quite immature in many ways, despite having many memories assimilated from family members. The result is a tense dichotomy: an incredibly powerful and knowledgeable being who still often acts like a kid. Esen's character is thoroughly charming, and goes a long way towards single-handedly carrying the book.

The story begins with Esen and her human friend Paul Ragem ensconced in a comfortable home and running a successful business. A rapid series of events destroys both home and business, and leaves them running for their lives. The attacks are clearly being coordinated by someone who knows that Esen is a shapeshifter. But who? Esen and Paul need to balance hiding and running for their lives with trying to uncover their nemesis.

This leads to a bit of problem with the pacing of the first half of the story. It often feels contrived, as if story elements are introduced just to force the characters to the next scene. As it turns out, these elements are largely due to the incredibly devious and thorough planning of their opponent. But until this is explained later in the book, one has the feeling of an extra-heavy dose of deus ex machina. Things settle down quite a bit in the second half of the book, as Esen and Paul learn more about the situation and set about resolving it. Consequently, I found the second reading of this book much more enjoyable than the first.

A major attraction of Beholder's Eye and its sequel, Changing Vision, was Czerneda's beautiful depictions of alien races. Hidden in Sight introduces a few more interesting new species, but the technique borders on a gimmick. It seems as if the new species do not have such innovative, unique characteristics, or perhaps the novelty has simply worn off.

Czerneda is an excellent author, and does a competent job of wrestling with the challenges inherent in continuing a series. Those who enjoyed Beholder's Eye and Changing Vision will probably enjoy Hidden in Sight as well.

Copyright © 2003 James Seidman

James Seidman is the V.P. of Engineering at a startup technology company. Consequently, he needs the excuse of doing book reviews to give himself time to read. He lives with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, and fifty-five fish in Naperville, Illinois.

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