Shapeshifters are a species of the Night World. They are noted for their ability to shapeshift into a specific animal. Due to their once-prominence over the earth, they are subtly feared by other Night People, who treat shapeshifters as second-class citizens.
Shapeshifters are described not as people who change into animals, but as an animal that can appear as a human; they are truly animal deep inside, with given instincts and abilities. Shapeshifters are almost always given a name or surname to reflect which animal form they take. Despite outward appearances and the usual beauty of the Night World citizen, the features of shapeshifters usually give a clue as to what they really are. For example, Keller is said to give the impression of a half-tamed panther, her true nature.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
In addition to being able to change form, shapeshifters retain their given animal senses even while in human form, making them excellent at tracking down human targets and recognizing fellow Night People. They can additionally track and hunt people by homing in on their life energy. Usually, they require a diet of meat, namely heart and liver, although this likely depends on what type of shapeshifter they are.
Shapeshifters can also, with enough control, achieve a halfway form, in which they boast both human and animal features. However, even for those trained to do this, it can be risky, as they may not be able to keep their self-control in that form, being neither fully animal or fully person at the time. This form is possible for younger shapeshifters, but they run the risk of getting stuck this way.
As shifting into animal form will damage regular clothes, most shapeshifters will wear clothing made from the skin, fur and hides of deceased shapeshifters, which transform with them and remain on their body when they change back.
As with vampires, humans can be converted into shapeshifters, but it is not exactly known how this is accomplished. There is an implication that, similar to werewolves, the shapeshifting ability is passed on by a bite.
The shapeshifters, under the reign of the dragons, were the ruling class of the Night World when the world was still young. For the most part, they were worshipped as "totem animals" and offered sacrifices, mainly by enslaved humans, whom the shapeshifters were additionally raising like cattle as a food supply. However, they found a dire enemy in the witches, who engaged in a war against them. The dragons were defeated by the witch clans but, rather than deal with this, decided to pool their powers and obliterate the world; if they could not have the world, no one would. Fortunately, the witches were able to stop them, placing them in a deathlike sleep to rid the earth of their presence. However, they allowed the youngest, the Dragon Princess, to remain awake, as it was felt she was too young to harm anyone. The princess was watched over and raised by the witches, ultimately having children of her own; her descendants became the First House of Shapeshifters, the Drache Family. This ended their reign over the earth, allowing the witches to come into power over the world in their place.
The rest of the shapeshifters were downtrodden as the witches and later vampires came to power; this inbred fear of the shapeshifters led to generations of prejudice and ill-treatment at the hands of the Night People. In most of the series, shapeshifters, as well as werewolves, play minor roles, usually as underlings to vampires or witches allied to the Night World.
Sometime during the 20th century, beginning with the ancient Azhdeha, the dragons began to reemerge, although it is unknown who had awakened them. Seeing the dragon's revival as a kind of messianic event, many shapeshifters flocked to Azhdeha; at his bidding, in broad daylight they began making fatal attacks, with one of their victims being Grandma Harman herself. Even Keller notes that "mice" shapeshifters would likely follow the dragon, as they believe Azhdeha will end their suffering and bring them back into power. However, the First House sought to establish an alliance with Circle Daybreak, having been a neutral party until then. It had been agreed that the prince of the First House, Galen, and the Witch Child Iliana Harman would marry at a Winter Solstice celebration, uniting the two families and formally creating an alliance with the shapeshifters; if the two teenagers did not, the shapeshifters would back out of the agreement and join the Night World. However, at the ceremony proper, Iliana instead chooses to make another shapeshifter, Keller, her blood-sister, uniting the shapeshifters and witches in a new way; the First House accepts this decision, making it an official truce.
- Gavin (a hawk or falcon shapeshifter, slaver and underling for the witch Sylvia Weald. He is implied to have been the one who converted Miles Neely)
- Bern (a bear shapeshifter and slaver for the Dark Kingdom. Killed by Delos Redfern)
- Miles Neely (a falcon shapeshifter; formerly human, implied to have been converted by Gavin)
- Raksha Keller (a panther shapeshifter)
- Galen Drache (chooses to become a leopard shapeshifter)
- Fulton Arnold (an eagle shapeshifter)
- Kierlan Drache (animal form unknown, stated to be feline)
- Georgie Douglas (animal form unknown)
- Although "shapeshifter" is commonly used to describe those born with their animal forms and members of the Drache family, it is also a collective term for other kinds of shapeshifters distinct from the main groups e.g. werewolves and dragons.
- The Drache Family are considered the ruling clan of the shapeshifters, and are given the distinct title of First House of Shapeshifters.
- Werewolves are not counted as shapeshifters proper due to werewolves not being pure-blooded wolves.