Cover image for The Shapeshifter's guide to running away / Lari Don.
The Shapeshifter's guide to running away / Lari Don.
Publication Information:
[Edinburgh] : Kelpies, 2017.
Physical Description:
254 pages ; 20 cm.
"The curses are getting worse. The curse-breaking workshop hasn't exactly turned out how Molly and her friends had hoped. And now something is going wrong with the way curses work. The team need to find the Promise Keeper who controls all curses, but the Keeper is guarded by Atacama the sphinx and his riddle. The five friends set off on a quest that takes them past the misty giant grey men of the mountains, to spar with an ancient snake and battling terrifying Nuckelavee. Can they discover what's wrong with the Promise Keeper and stop the world of curses from spinning out of control?" --Publisher description.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
DON Paperback Junior Fantasy / Sci-Fi

On Order



Molly's curse is getting worse.

The curse-breaking workshop hasn't exactly turned out how Molly and her friends had hoped. And now something is going wrong with the way curses work.

The team need to find the Promise Keeper who controls all curses, but the Keeper is guarded by Atacama the sphinx and his riddle. The five friends set off on a quest that takes them past the misty giant gray men of the mountains, to spar with an ancient snake and battle terrifying Nuckelavee.

Can they discover what's wrong with the Promise Keeper and stop the world of curses from spinning out of control?

Magic, adventure and danger collide in the second dramatic book of this brilliant new fantasy adventureSpellchasers trilogy by award-winning author Lari Don.

Author Notes

Lari Don has worked in politics and broadcasting, but is now a full-time writer and storyteller. She grew up in the north-east of Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. She is the author of the four Fabled Beasts Chronicles novels, Rocking Horse War, and Mind Blind for young teens. She is also a prolific writer of picture books, including The Tale of Tam Linn and The Secret of the Kelpie.



Molly's curse got worse early on Sunday morning. Molly expected to become human as she leapt through the air. She expected to beat Innes to the finish line as a hare, change shape when she crossed the stone wall into Aunt Doreen's garden, and crash-land on the ground as a girl. That's what always happened. She always beat her friend Innes when he challenged her to a race. She always controlled her curse by crossing a boundary and becoming human again, just in time to accept his grudging congratulations. But this time, when she landed on the ground, she didn't fall and bash her knees. This time she stayed on all four feet. All four paws. She was over the wall, over the boundary, and she was still a hare. Still small, vulnerable, defenceless. Still unable to speak. Innes thumped down on his heavy hooves, shapeshifted from white horse to blond boy, then said, "Well done. Again. Though I don't know how you do it. I was the fastest thing in Speyside until you arrived. You weigh less than one of my hooves, you don't even train, and you still beat me every single time. It's not... fair. But, obviously, well done, again." Molly couldn't answer. Innes sighed. "Why have you shifted back to a hare already? Do you want another race? I will beat you eventually, but I'm not giving it another go until I've had one of your great-aunt's biscuits. So bounce over the wall and become a girl again. You're easier to chat to when you can talk back." Molly turned and jumped over the wall, hoping it had been some kind of magical blip, hoping the rules of her curse would work as usual this time. She landed in the field neatly and elegantly. She was still a hare. Over the past week, Molly had got used to being a part-time hare. She enjoyed the speed and the strength of her long hare legs and she loved beating Innes in races. But she didn't want to be a full-time hare. She'd learnt to manipulate this curse, with the help of her new friends. She'd discovered that, as well as becoming a hare unwillingly when she heard a dogbark or growl, she could choose to shift from human to hare by growling like a dog herself. She also knew that she always shifted back from hare to human when shecrossed the boundary between one owner's land and the next: a garden wall, a playground fence, a road cutting between two farms. So why wasn't it working now? She leapt the wall again, still enjoying the power of her legs and the precision of her senses, but also starting to feel trapped inside this small fragile shape. She landed, on all four paws. She was still a hare. Molly looked down at her delicate brown paws, wondering if she'd ever see her pale human fingers again. Innes was frowning. "Why are you still a hare?" He crouched down and placed a hand gently on her back. With his warm palm on her spine, Molly was suddenly aware of her fast jerky breathing. Stuck inside this hare body, she was beginning to panic. "Calm down, Molly. We'll work this out. Maybe this wall is, I don't know, broken or something. Let's try other boundaries..." Innes wrapped his hands round her ribcage, about to pick her up. Molly flicked her ears in annoyance, slid out of his grasp and sprinted across her aunt's garden. She leapt over the hens' wire run, hurdled the wooden fence into Mr Buchan's weeds, then jumped a white wall onto the Websters' lawn. She was still a hare. She swerved round in a tight circle and ran back. Over the wall, over the fence, round the confused chickens, back to Innes. "So walls don't work and fences don't work," he said, "even though they worked yesterday. We'll have to change you back another way." He paused. "I shift by thinking about the shape I want to be. Why don't you try that?" Molly's ears drooped. Innes changed easily because he was a kelpie, a born shapeshifter, able to become human or horse or fish or monster at will. She'd been cursed to change from human to hare, so she had much less control over her shapeshifting. "I know," said Innes, "it's probably not as easy for you. But see if it works." Molly closed her wide-vision eyes and pictured herself. Her girl-self. The self she had been every minute of every day until Mr Crottel had cursed her. She saw freckles and fingers. She saw bruised knees, poky elbows and short brown hair. She focused and she wished and she hoped. And it made no difference at all. She was still a hare. "This is beyond us," said Innes. "Let's ask Mrs Sharpe. She knows a lot more than she taught us on that curselifting workshop. If your curse has got worse somehow, she'll know what to do. Let's go to Skene Mains farm." They walked down the narrow garden, through the back door into the kitchen, then crept through the bright cottage. As Innes opened the front door, Molly heardher Aunt Doreen call from the living room. "I'm off to Elgin soon to get some messages, so I'll not be back until teatime. See you later, Molly." Innes muttered, "Alright. Bye," and dashed through the front door before Molly's aunt could identify his voice. He shut the door and put Molly down on the pavement in front of the row of houses between the distillery and the town. He asked, "Would you rather go to Skene Mains the long way round town on your own paws, or the short way through town under my coat?" She pointed her nose at the hills. He grinned. "Race you?" She shook her ears. He sighed. "Ok. I know. On unfamiliar territory you have to be sensible, you have to keep an eye out for predators and snares. No race then; let's just meet at the farm gates. I bet I'll get there before you!" Molly sprinted over the empty road, then into the fields that would take her in a long curve round the town of Craigvenie to Mrs Sharpe's farm. As Molly ran at a comfortable speed, looking out for dogs, foxes and barbed wire, she realised Innes was galloping one field higher up, looking for more challenging obstacles to leap. Each time she pushed under a gate or leapt a wall, she hoped to hit the ground with a human-sized crash. But each time, she was still a hare. Then she ran into a grassy field and saw a moving shape to her left. Was it a predator? A fox? Molly dropped to the ground and lay flat, hiding her soft brown contours in the folds of the field. Then she recognised the shape. It was a hare. Three hares. Long-legged and long-eared, like larger stronger faster rabbits. Silhouetted clearly on the grass of the field. Molly had never met any other hares. She wondered if these hares would think she was a real hare, or only a pretend one. She watched them. They were grazing together, moving around each other, not too close, but clearly comfortable as a group. They were all female. Molly wasn't sure how she knew that. But she did know it, even more clearly than she'd know whether a distant teenager in jeans and t-shirt was a boy or a girl. These were girl hares. So she moved towards them. She knew they could see her. Her own vision was so wide she could see almost everything around her, except just in front of her nose and just behind her head. The hares had stopped cropping the grass. They were all standing very still. Then the largest hare turned round to watch Molly approaching. Was there a hare language? Molly wondered. Would she understand it? Molly loped closer. The other two hares turned round. She moved even closer. Slowly. Not wanting to scare them. But they didn't seem scared. They didn't seem suspicious or puzzled. They just stared at her. The largest hare loped towards her. Molly tried to look friendly, with no idea what a hare would think was friendly. The hare reached Molly and stood up, showing her pale belly. Molly nodded a greeting. The large hare punched her. Just whacked her, right on the nose. And again. And again. Punching, boxing, hitting. Molly squealed, a noise she hadn't known she could make, and backed off. She raised her own front paws, planning to fight back. Then she realised this hare was just defending her territory, or her babies, or her grass, or something else important to a real wild hare. Molly didn't want any of those things. Molly didn't want to fight her. So when the hare bobbed forward to punch her again, Molly turned and ran away. She ran as fast as she could, away from the hares, towards the witch's farm, hoping with all her heart, for the first time, that she could lift this curse, and that she wouldn't have to spend her life trying to make friends with hares who punched her before even getting to know her. She ran, knowing the only native animal in Scotland that could overtake her - a larger hare - was right behind her. But as she darted under the gate, the other hares were already nibbling grass again. Like she hadn't even been there. Molly sprinted across the last few fields to Mrs Sharpe's farm. And she thought about grass. She'd never eaten as a hare. She'd always changed back in time to eat human food. If she was stuck as a hare, would she have to eat grass? She stopped and looked at the grass under her paws. She bent down and sniffed the sour salad smell. No. She wasn't hungry enough. She'd try eating grass later if she absolutely had to. As she ran through the last field, Innes joined her, sweating from his gallop and jumps. Molly knew that even though she was faster than Innes, she wasn't a true shapeshifter like him. He was equally at home as a horse or a boy. She wasn't really a hare. Perhaps it was time to accept that: to say goodbye to the speed andfreedom of being a hare. Perhaps she really did have to find a way to lift this curse forever. She leapt over the fence into the road, and ran betweenMrs Sharpe's gateposts. She felt an unfamiliar fizzing in her bones, tumbled forward in an uncontrolled somersault and caught a wideangle glimpse of fur-covered paws stretching into long bony fingers. Then her vision narrowed, her hands hit the ground and her palms scraped painfully across the gravel. Molly was a girl again. But it had never happened like that before. She'd never seen herself shift from one shape to another; it usually happened too fast. Molly shivered. Her curse had definitely got worse. Excerpted from The Shapeshifter's Guide to Running Away by Lari Don All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.