By Christina Soontornvat
ARC e-book, 288 page (hardcover)
2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Expected Publication Date: September 1
Izzy and her family have moved to a new town, yet again. She’s tired of moving and thinks their new town is especially boring. But when her sister, Hen, is lured into the forest by a strange song and fails to return, Izzy’s world is turned upside down. She follows her neighbor, who is rumored to be a witch, down a hole and into a land she’s never seen or heard of before. Confronted with strange magic, in a land where humans are hunted, Izzy joins a group of cast-off changelings and sets off to rescue her sister.
I wanted more from this book. While I didn’t think this was a bad book by any means, I’ve read some really fantastic middle-grade books this year, and The Changelings simply didn’t hold up.
I’m always down for a story about changelings and children crossing into the fairy world (or the reverse), but neither the world building nor the characters stood out for me. Izzy was a typical older sister, annoyed by Hen’s constant need to tag along, upset about the move, but willing to do whatever it takes to save her sister. Hen is young but smart for her age (especially when it comes to anything to do with fire, which was a bit disturbing for a five-year-old), well-meaning and occasionally bratty.
The changelings Izzy meets on her adventures in the fairy world are also pretty cookie-cutter. There’s the big, lovable one, the bully-turned-friend and the snarky leader with a guilt complex. Their powers were more interesting than their personalities. They can shape-shift only into certain types of animals that tend to match their personality types and one of the characters is semi-see through, giving her a ghostly feel.
The villain of the story was also lackluster – we don’t find out her motivation until the very end of the book, and in a few short sentences, so she felt flat until right before she was vanquished. I won’t risk a spoiler and talk about her reasons for becoming evil, but I thought it was clever and I wish it had been explored on a deeper level throughout the book.
In the end, I never felt immersed in the book. Nothing about the world grabbed me and I couldn’t sympathize with any of the characters. I did, however, enjoy Soontornvat’s take on the exchange of human babies and changelings and how this affected the fairy world. But again, I feel it could have been explored more. With a human perspective, here are these beings stealing our children from us and I wanted a better idea of why we shouldn’t be up in arms about this. Even Izzy has some moments when she gives the subject some thought and she’s torn about how to feel, but this was a side element to the story, rather than the main focus of saving her sister.
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.