If you are remotely interested in e-publishing or Fantasy fiction and haven’t heard of Amanda Hocking, then you clearly were off-planet for the duration of the media fuss. Just in case you were sojourning somewhere on the Moon, or have a memory like mine – Amanda Hocking is the twenty-something who, on finding it impossible to get her work accepted by an agent or publisher, decided in April 2010 to start to self-publish her seventeen books. She brought out her three series in quick succession on Amazon’s Kindle and by August was able to quit her day job. By the following January, she was selling 100,000 plus a month and eventually signed up with St. Martin’s Press to publish her Trylle trilogy and the new Watersong series, after having sold well over a million books and earned over two million dollars in book sales. So when I spotted this volume on the shelves, I couldn’t resist. Would I find it an enjoyable, absorbing read as so many of Hocking’s fans have before me?
Wendy Everly knew she was different the day her mother tried to kill her and accused her of having been switched at birth. Although certain she’s not the monster her mother claims she is – she does feel that she doesn’t quite fit in… She’s bored and frustrated by her small town life – and then there’s the secret that she can’t tell anyone. Her mysterious ability – she can influence people’s decisions, without knowing how, or why…
When the intense and darkly handsome newcomer Finn suddenly turns up at her bedroom window one night – her world is turned upside down. He holds the key to her past, the answers to her strange powers, and is the doorway to a place she never imagined could exist: Főrening, the home of the Trylle.
These Trylle are trolls – no, not the grotesque, lumpy creatures that lurk under damp bridges to eat goats, this version are sexily attractive with magical powers that are dwindling while they use their abilities to gain material possessions, instead. So they switch their babies with wealthy human hosts, allowing them to inherit fortunes before bringing them back into the fold.
Wendy is a strong heroine – wilful, not altogether likeable, spiky and with plenty of vulnerabilities. She is struggling. Disliked at school by her peers, who instinctively sense her difference, she is often reduced to coercing people against their will. While she is sharply aware that her brother and aunt spend far too much of their precious time and energy worrying and caring for her – something that makes her both angry and even more awkward.
Hocking has this under-achieving teenager absolutely nailed – her sense of frustration is palpable. So when Finn turns up, she is not immediately inclined to believe the story he comes out with – a refreshing change in a genre where often I feel that the humans involved throw themselves into the supernatural high jinks with far too little soul-searching, or scepticism.
Once Wendy finds herself in Főrening, still scrambling to play catch-up in an environment where secrecy seems to be a way of life, we meet maybe the most intriguing character in the book. Wendy’s true mother, Queen Elora, is beautiful, aloof and utterly formidable – she certainly doesn’t display any maternal cosiness as her attitude towards Wendy is guarded and detached. Unsurprisingly, Wendy finds herself floundering.
It did occur to me that maybe that society reliant on switching their children at birth with human hosts to parent their offspring would be a lot slicker in providing a strong familiarisation programme, once those offspring returned back to Trylle society. However, this is a minor niggle in what is a well-structured story with an enjoyable world and some engaging characters. Am I going to get hold of the sequel, Torn? Oh yes – because I found that once I got into the story and overcame the occasionally lumpy prose, Switched was difficult to put down again. And I want to know what happens to Wendy. And her mother…