This brought to you by Ali Sparkes' Shapeshifter series, which I recommend you all go and read right now. I should warn you that the rest of this post is me musing about the series, and contains massive spoilers.
I'd worked out some of what was going on through reading the entry on TV Tropes and trying not to view all the spoilers there, but I did not expect the bad guys to take things quite as far as they did. Both that and the climax of book 4 caught me completely by surprise - I was expecting something big, but not that much. We all knew Catherine was bad, but *that* bad?
She's one of the most downright manipulative characters I've seen in a long time. I thought the Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series were bad, but at least there everyone knows that they're pulling the strings. With Catherine... she manipulates everyone into believing that she's a complete angel while destroying her brother's ability to speak, stealing everyone's powers, and crucifying Dax on a windmill. She's one of the few characters that actually fits the Complete Monster trope. Not even the Joker from The Dark Knight managed this - while he's certainly a monster, he's an amusing character to watch (albeit from a long distance, like the next planet) and because of that I could never quite take him seriously. There's nothing amusing about Catherine.
On a lighter note the series was full of laughs and amusement. I do like the answer phone message the reporter left right under the nose of the secret service: "Hi, it's me leaving a message to myself to make sure that the wild animals have all gone..." The merry dance that Dax and the others led the SAS on over the moors is good as well, and I can imagine Owen probably kicking himself for teaching them their bush craft so well. Plus there's all the little bits like the use of a well-aimed bag of flour to discover an invisible person, Spook's many illusionist pranks, or the mimic messing with everyone, which make it more engaging and generally just nicer to read. The Wheel of Time is all very well but it's a very dry read.
For me, both of Dax's main forms are ones that I've always liked to some extent. I've always loved the Animals of Farthing Wood series, with Fox somehow managing to lead the animals all the way to White Deer Park. And peregrines are awesome, if for no other reason than being the fastest creature in the world. I don't think I've actually read a book about a peregrine before, though I do remember seeing a TV series back in, oh, primary school (so early nineties) that once that had saving them from something-or-other as its plot.
Anyway, having read that I'm now in search of the next series to read. (I'm also reading the Wheel of Time series, but I picked up Shapeshifter as well as I was always waiting for one or the other to make its way to my local library - there's never enough copies!). So, what have you all been reading recently, and do you have any recommendations?