4 out of 4 stars
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Little Bird is a science fiction novel written by Seth Chambers. The book is split between the perspectives of its two protagonists: Song Shia, a powerful polymorph, and Alex, a curator at a museum. Polymorphs are people who have the ability to change aspects of their appearance at will. Song Shia, however, is not an ordinary Polymorph; she is a Polymorph Adept. She is able to turn into a completely different person at will, the only constant being her blue eyes that mark her as an Adept. Alex and Song Shia meet by chance at Alex’s museum. Despite her being in a disfigured form, Alex is drawn by some unknown force toward Song Shia. Eventually, Song Shia reveals her secret to him and the pair enter a whirlwind romance. However, there are two catches: Song Shia changes her appearance every Thursday and the two must keep their relationship a secret. This is because Polymorphs are reviled in society. As their relationship heats up, more is revealed about Song Shia’s past and the couple must decide if they are meant to last.
The concept of Polymorphs fascinated me. Usually when shapeshifting is discussed, the logistics of it are glossed over. Chambers doesn’t shy away from some of the more distasteful aspects. I think that this added a layer of realism to the story. However, some readers may be put off the graphic nature of some of the transformation scenes. Additionally, I enjoyed where Chambers delved into the discrimination and challenges Polymorphs faced. The book takes place in Chicago, one of the few safe cities for Polymorphs. Despite its safe status, Polymorphs are still unable to reveal themselves to the public. I thought that Chambers did a good job of highlighting this in the scene where a man is handing out petitions against Polymorphs. The discontent of the public emphasized the high stakes nature of the protagonists’ relationship.
The main characters were the real highlight of the novel. Song Shia’s crass yet vulnerable personality had me engrossed. Alex’s reserved nature served as an excellent mediator toward Song Shia’s boundless energy. The petition scene also perfectly captures their personalities. When the pair encounters the man, Alex attempts to move past him and avoid any conflict. On the other hand, Song Shia pretends to be clueless and engages in a conversation with the man. As she signs the petition, she proceeds to write profanity on the paper. Additionally, I really enjoyed the flashbacks that explained Song Shia’s past. Her life in China and parental issues really struck a chord with me. The most heartbreaking moment was when Song Shia became a fully-fledged Polymorph Adept. After her powers were revealed, her father asked her to become a boy so that he could have a son. I could feel the sense of inadequacy and worthlessness Song Shia felt during that scene as well as her desire to please her father.
In terms of improvements, I would have loved to have learned more about the history of Polymorphs and the discrimination they faced. Chambers provided some tidbits, but I was left wanting more. Additionally, the book is mostly character-driven. Most of the story is spent describing the circumstances of Song Shia’s past and exploring her relationship with Alex. I don’t think this is a fault, but readers who prefer a more action-packed book may be disappointed.
Little Bird seemed like it was professionally edited. I only noticed a handful of errors while reading Little Bird. They mostly consisted of minor typos such as the use of no instead of not. The errors were not frequent or severe enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book.
I rate Little Bird 4 out of 4 stars. The premise was unique, and the characters were well developed. Chambers did an excellent job of employing flashbacks to shape Song Shia’s character. The shortcomings of the book were not severe enough to warrant a lower rating. I would recommend this book to sci-fi fans and readers who enjoy character-driven stories. As previously mentioned, audiences who prefer a more action-packed book may not enjoy this novel. Additionally, profanity and graphic depictions of violence and sex are present. Little Bird would not be a good choice for sensitive or younger readers.
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