Xor: The Shape of Darkness by Moshe Sipper
On his twelfth birthday Lewis Nash comes home from school to find that his house has blown up to smithereens, killing his father. Having lost his mother in an accident four years earlier, Lewis realizes he is now an orphan — but he has no time to dwell on it. The moment he gets off the school bus a fearsome wolf-man tries to grab him. The boy is saved in the nick of time by Master Long, who reveals to him that he’s a Shaper from a place called Xor, which is being devoured by the Realm Pirates. Lewis learns that he must do his utmost to become the powerful Shaper he was destined to be.
Because, it would seem, he’s the one and only chance Xor has
I found this story very imaginative and fun. The main character is a shifter. He finds out in the first couple of pages that he is from another planet and must return home after all these years. When he is presented to the King he is informed that the pirates are taking over and making areas of the world that are becoming like erased and no contact can be made with the people that live there and they have to be stopped before the blackness takes over the whole planet.
As a shifter he has the ability to change forms into pretty much anything that he is thinking about and has to undergo training to stabilize his thinking and maintain his magical powers. He is told that his parents are still alive and his shifter powers are possibly the most powerful that anybody has ever seen. He just maybe the key to saving the planet and finding his parents.
There was a lot of descriptions and world-building so even middle grade readers will need to have a good attention span as there is not a lot of action in the book, but mostly imagery, magic and has a good theme to the ending that is thought provoking and good a discussion topic.