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Introduction to Shifters - What They Are and How They Work in Urban Fantasy

woman and wolf

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 Introduction to Shifters -

What They Are and

How They Work in Urban Fantasy

Dear Reader,

I couldn't resist writing this post. I want to ask your forgiveness for the format. Y'all know my day job involves a lot of professional writing, and when I'm not writing fiction, I write in a standard nonfiction style. I apologize in advance if this post feels like a lecture.

The entire first miniseries character cast in the Draoithe Saga, Kingdom Rising, consists only of shifters. So it only makes sense that I would eventually address the anomaly. For those who have only recently stumbled over my work or urban fantasy, you may ask: what are shifters, exactly?

Duncan O'Sullivan, Fox

You probably know them from games, movies, and television, but perhaps that term isn't familiar. In the realm of fantasy literature, shifters, also known as shape-shifters, or the more common werewolves, are some of the most popular supernatural creatures. They are certainly central in many of the stories set in the dream. These creatures can change their physical form from human to animal, or vice versa. In the dream, there are distinctions between werebeasts and classes of shifters, but this general definition covers them all.

In future posts, I'll present in-depth inspections concerning the characteristics of the different shifters and werebeasts who inhabit the dream. In this post, I want to offer the topical overview, involving types, function, society, and urban fantasy.

Types of First-order Legends, Second-order Shifters, and Third-order Werebeasts

a phoenix

There are typically four categories of shifters in the urban fantasy genre. Some of the most popular include werewolves and canine shifters, werecats and feline shifters, werebears and ursidae shifters, and werebirds and raptor shifters.

In the dream, shifters include first-order legends, second-order shifters, and third-order werebeasts. These beings, like wizards, demons, vampires, and others, are all immortal. Their populations are much smaller than that of mortals. And while they will never grow old or die of natural causes, many of them can die if killed in various manners or choose to fade into death when eternity stretches out too long.

First-order legends are complex, wielding advanced forms of magic, and resembling things from medieval beastiaries and ancient myths, such as the phoenix, dragon, auraphant, Cheval Mallet, and gryphon, to name a few.

First and second-order shifters can change forms at will, whereas third-order werebeasts must conform to certain rules. For example, the change of forms only occurs at night or during a full moon.


Werewolves and other canine shifters are perhaps the most recognized types of shifters, often portrayed as savage creatures with uncontrollable urges when viewed as villains and fierce warriors when seen as heroes.

Werecats and other feline shifters are typically portrayed as more agile and swift in their movements, with a feline grace that sets them apart from other shifters.

Werebears, or ursidae shifters, meanwhile, known for their immense strength and ability to shrug off damage, often appear as the solid, down-to-earth heavyweights.

Werebirds, or raptor shifters, have the obvious ability to take flight and usually have exceptionally acute vision.

There are other types of shifters, but in the dream, these are the four main immortal shifter categories.

How Do Second-order Shifters Function?

glowing owl

Focusing on Second-order shifters, we see the basic principles for how all these beings change forms.

Most can change their physical form because of two reasons. For some, it is an innate ability inherited from their parents. For the others, they gained their immortal abilities through the bite or some method of poisoning from a shifter. In some stories, shifters can use magic to change their forms, but in the dream, magic is a function of thought with an emphasis on the wielder's need, considering the rules of the magic they possess.

In the dream, shifters exist by birth along strict bloodlines or transform from a human, usually from an intentionally poisonous bite. When the shadowy evil character Peter Elliot mixes modern medical science with ancient shifter blood magic, shifters, who were once human, undergo a forced induction into the immortal realm, creating an imbalance of magic, which the Dire Wolf King must fight against.

Shifters in Society

woman walking with a wolf

In many urban fantasy stories, shifters are outcasts in society and exist in the shadows of the commonly understood world, much the way vampires always occupy the night. Forced to live on the fringes of humanity, living in packs or clans away from other people, many shifters form strict laws to govern themselves and protect their homes. Sometimes, they integrate into human society by concealing their true nature and living lives which mimic those of the surrounding mortals. We see immortals in the dream in all three settings.

When portrayed as having their own set of laws and customs, alphas, or leaders who maintain order within the pack, often rule shifters. Some stories explore the conflicts that arise when shifter packs come into conflict with each other, or with other supernatural creatures, while others explore the need to form alliances against the ever encroaching human population.

The Role of Shifters in Urban Fantasy

woman as a wolf

Shifters play a significant role in the urban fantasy genre. They may serve as the sidekick or ally to the protagonist, providing extra muscle when needed. However, they can be the main character in their own right, as their struggles with their dual nature can make for interesting storytelling.

Often used as a metaphor for marginalized groups in society, shifters struggle to fit in and gain acceptance despite their differences. Their unique abilities and existence outside of human society allow for exploration of themes such as identity, discrimination, and prejudice.

Because of the dual nature of the shifter, it isn't hard to see why these characters fit well into character driven stories such as long series and sagas.

Why do Shifters Matter in the Dream?

the king's castle

Shifters are fascinating and versatile creatures which have become a staple in the urban fantasy genre and are the core of the Draoithe Saga's ruling council. Their ability to change forms and their struggles with their dual natures present many opportunities for the stories to twist and turn as the multitude of characters find their homes in the dream.

As a metaphor for marginalized groups in society, they provide a unique lens through which to explore issues of identity and discrimination, as well as offer an excellent opportunity to present a magnificent triumph over impossible odds tale. Whether as sidekicks or the main characters, shifters play important roles in each story involved in the ongoing struggle to restore the balance of magic in the dream.

reviews request

Once again, I must leave you with a request. If you have read any of my stories, I could use your help with reviews. To use certain promotional tools, books need different quantities of reviews. So the more reviews books receive, the more opportunities authors gain to offer their stories to new readers. Please remember to kindly leave a brief, honest review when you read. It means a lot. To leave a review of the stories in the dream, please visit my Books2Read author profile and choose your platform. I appreciate all reviews on every platform.

I'm specifically in need of reviews for Arctic Fox before I begin any paid promotions. If you've read this tale, please take five minutes to leave a review. If you haven't read it, but would like to help, email me at and request a review copy. Thank you all in advance for helping an independent author spread the word about her passion projects.

I have to get some work done before my weekend ends. Until we chat again next time,

Be Careful!

Happy reading,

Ophelia Kee

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