I know there have been a few disappointments in this line (Luna Books), but Susan Krinard's SHIELD OF THE SKY isn't one of them. Anyone who expected this to be like a Leisure fantasy romance will be surprised as this is on par with the best of the books in the mainstream fantasy lines. This is more like the epic fantasy of yore that I used to read a la Terry Goodkind, Raymond Feist etc. I haven't read epic fantasy in quite a while, so I didn't know if I'd get into the Krinard, but good writing always tells.
The main character starts out as Rhenna of the Free People, who are an all-female clan of Amazon-type warrior women. Rhenna is a bit of a rebel; due to breaking one of their sacred laws, she is isolated from her people and set to guarding the herds on the outskirts of their borders. But she is called back to find their people are under attack and that their main allies, a clan of male mountain-dwelling shapechangers thought to be made by the gods, have disappeared.
Rhenna is sent to find if any shapeshifters are left and bring them back, but when she finds the last survivor, Cian, he is not willing to come home. The land is being invaded by people of the Stone God, who are destroying any who don't join them. For some reason they fear the shapeshifters and sent men out to capture and imprison them. Cian is determined to save his people. This isn't light and fluffy stuff.
As the story unfolds and more is revealed, the characters have to change to see more than their small worlds and realize that if the evil isn't stopped there won't be a world left to live in. They have some help from spirits, gods, and rebels; manage to escape capture; and discover they are more than they realized.
There is also a romance that actually moves forward near the end of the book, which I was happy to see. I figured I'd be left hanging until book two. :-)
This is only book one, though, so the story isn't finished. The danger is still lurking; there are a few short peeks at some of the atrocities being carried out by the Stone God's priest that are brief but leave a horrifing picture of what the future has in store if he isn't stopped. I got very involved in SHIELD OF THE SKY; it's a definite recommend!--Linda (23 Jan 05)