I enjoy reading well-written children’s fiction and this new fairy story using some of the classical elements of fairy tales caught my attention, despite the rather clunky cover.
Izzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange things start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door. Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.
I think this one is aimed at the age-group who’d enjoy Terry Pratchett’s first Tiffany Aching book, The Wee Free Men, and while Izzy isn’t quite up there alongside Tiffany for awesomeness, nevertheless this tale hooked me and wouldn’t let go until it was finished. I read it in two greedy gulps as the adventure whisked me away.
Izzy is an engaging protagonist, thoroughly fed up with yet another move and exasperated by her seven-year-old kid sister. But that annoyance turns to guilty dread when Hen suddenly disappears. And Izzy is suddenly plunged in the middle of an alien world – though she isn’t quite as poleaxed as you’d might think as she has been obsessed by fairy stories all her life. While I sometimes get exasperated by a protagonist immediately believing an extraordinary situation, children’s reactions are often different and Izzy’s speedy acceptance of the alternative world she finds herself in was credible within the plot.
Soontornvat’s pacing is nicely judged throughout. Layers of information unpeel along the way, as we need to know about it, rather than enduring any semi-omniscient info dumps so often occurring in children’s books. I also like the range of supporting characters. Those helping her are not necessarily nice or even fully on her side. While those ranged against her are just plain terrifying. While one of the plot twists was fairly easy to guess, there were a couple of others I didn’t see coming – and the Queen and her henchmen are genuinely chilling when we see the fate of those poor missing children…
The climactic final scene is action-packed and dramatic in a book full of adventure, with all the elements brought to a satisfying conclusion.
The arc of The Changelings was provided by the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.