Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Title: Changeling
Author:  Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 24, 2012
Rating: 1/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is pretty, but expected.  It makes it appear that Isolde is the main character when, in actuality, the plot follows Luca for a majority of the time.  I was glad to see the omission of the "heaving bosoms" that normally accompanies this type of cover

The Gist:
Seventeen year old Luca is accused of heresy and thrown out of his religious order for using math to prove that it is impossible for all of the relics from the true cross to be real.  He is quickly recruited by a secret order and sent on a mission to hold an inquiry into strange occurrences.  Isolde has been cast out from her home upon the death of her father and forced to vows at a nunnery and serve as their lady superior.  When the sisters began acting strangely and complaining of strange dreams and stigmata, Luca is sent to investigate.

I was pretty disappointed by this one.  I have read a lot of Philippa Gregory's books (though I haven't really enjoyed the latest ones) and was hoping for the same sense of excitement that I got while reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  Instead, I got a watered down romance, predictable storyline and characters who were barely tolerable.

When we meet Luca, we are told that he has a remarkable head for numbers and that these skills led to him being called a Changeling (my definition: a child that is left behind by the faerie folk to be raised in a human household).  Take note of this BECAUSE IT NEVER COMES UP AGAIN! Seriously.  He never uses these mysterious mathematical skills and, despite the title of the book, we never find out anything about whether or not he is a changeling.  As a character, he is boring as heck.  He never does anything exciting or unexpected, his manner of speaking is flat and unaffected and he switches between allowing others to take charge and pompously reminding them that he is supposed to be leading this investigation.

Isolde has been promised by her father that, upon his death, all the lands and the kingdom would be hers.  She has been raised to be the lady of the house and taught how to maintain her lands and keep her people fed and safe.  Yet, on his deathbed he supposedly recounts all of this and gives her the choice between marrying a particularly disgusting man or joining the nunnery.  Isolde is told all of this by her brother (her father apparently refused to see her at the end) and never questions the authenticity of his claims.  When she asks to see the will, he gives her a COPY instead of the original and then sends her would-be husband to rape her.  That's right folks, her brother tells his buddy that he can exercise his matrimonial rights before she has even accepted and (I think) within 24 hours of her father's death.  And STILL Isolde doesn't think he is lying about her inheritance.  FFS! How dense can you get?  For the rest of the book, Isolde continues to be boring and is in constant need of rescuing.  The only characters that show any type of promise are the servants Ishraq and Freize and even they are not nearly as interesting as they could be.

This book holds an odd place in the genre spectrum.  It is not quite realistic enough to be true historical fiction nor is it strange enough to be paranormal fiction.  The blurb promises werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers but doesn't actually deliver on either werewolves or witches and I can only assume the alchemists and death-dancers will be featured in the next book.  The plot is sloooooowwwwww and concentrates far too much on traveling and interviewing people.  It really feels like two separate stories; one that features the nunnery and one a village with a werewolf.  The stories felt disconnected, almost like two novellas that were strung together in an attempt to make a full book, and no progress is made on any of the over-arching issues (Luca's mysterious new order and his heritage or Isolde's disinheritance).  

For most of this book I found myself waiting for it to be over and wishing that I had chosen to read something else instead.  I do not think I will be sticking around for the next in this series. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: None
Violence: Death by Poison, Death by Fire
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking Wine/Ale


Keertana said...

Fantastic review Zabet! I've been hearing a lot of mixed reviews of this one but I think I'm better off just skipping it! Thank you for the insightful comments!(:

Ivy Book Bindings

Aneeqah said...

I'm so sorry that you didn't like this one, Zabet! =( It sounds pretty bad from what you said in your review, though. Characters are so important for me in a story, and it looks like you didn't like the characters at all in this book. I'll definitely be passing this one up.

Thanks for the honest review! I hope your next read is better!

-Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

Zabet said...

Thanks Keertana and Aneequa. I have loved some of Gregory's adult books in the past but I am kind of feeling like she should have stuck with it instead of venturing into YA.

Brenna said...

I'm super disappointed to hear this one wasn't very good - I've heard mixed reviews and I was hoping I'd enjoy it, so I do have a copy I'll read but I'm not in any rush to get through it. I still want to see through myself but honestly, those characters sound weak. I'm glad to have read your review before reading it!

Brenna from Esther's Ever After

Zabet said...

Hi Brenna, I'm not sure if the series will get better later on, but I really couldn't connect with the characters in this one.

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