by Philippa Gregory
Pub: May 29th 2012
by SimonPulse (Simon and Schuster)
Review Copy: ARC provided by publisher
Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.
Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.
Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.
Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.
The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.
Philippa Gregory is well-known in the adult book world for her historicals. Changeling is her foray into the world of young adult fiction. It’s a good fit. Changeling has some elements of the paranormal/fantastical with heavy dose of historical and a dash of romance.
I liked Changeling. There seems to have been a great deal of thought that went into the backstory and behind the organization, The Order of Darkness that Lucas is recruited to at the start of the book. Philippa Gregory writes, in a note at the end of the book, that the idea that the end of the world was close at hand was a real idea and that people in the Middle Ages thought that strange and unexplained happenings were proof that the world would soon end. This added note of realism comes through well in the behaviour of all the characters of the book.
There are four main characters in Changeling. It think they will eventually form a team of sorts, but for now they sometimes blend together and sometimes are more like two separate teams.
Luca and Freize make a great team. Freize seems simple but is more than he appears. We see flashes of his skills with animals (and people too) that show a character who sees more than he appears to. This compliments Luca who is very smart and while able to see patterns and solve puzzles, sometime doesn’t see the forest for the trees.
Isolde and her friend/servant Ishraq are also well balanced. Ishraq was raised to be everything Isolde isn’t and the two make a nice pair. While Luca and Isolde seem to be falling in love, despite the complications that could mean to them, the possible romance between Freize and Ishraq was the bigger romantic story in this book. If there are any big romances in this series they still need to grow in future books. This plot mostly hints at romance, with the focus more on setting the paths these characters will follow in the future.
Changeling is an interesting mix of historical and paranormal. The characters and the reader alike see magic where there may (or may not) be any because we are expecting and assuming it to be there. I really liked how the mysteries Lucas find himself solving play out. Both the mystery of the Abbey and the small town struggling to deal with a werewolf were a great mix of the supernatural, human nature and our desire to see magic where we want it to be.
This questioning of what is real and what is not extends past the plot and into the characters as well. The changeling of the title is Luca, who is thought to be too handsome, so quick and so intelligent to possibly be the natural son to his simple, aging village parents. The villagers where Luca grew up, and later others who meet him assume he must be a (mystical) faerie changeling. I admit when I started this book I too took that at face value to be fact (the danger of reading so many paranormals I guess) but as the story winds along, I had to wonder if I was really just like the rest of the simple villagers, assuming the supernatural first when a logical and earthly reason was just as easily found and with stronger evidence to back it up?
Overall, if you are looking for a solid story that may or may not be supernatural, along with interesting characters with room to grow, Changeling is a story you’ll enjoy.
To find out more you can check out the website for the series: Order of Darkness (There's not much there now, but hopefully soon!)