This review does not contain spoilers.
Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, handsome seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of times across Europe. Commanded by sealed orders, Luca is sent to map the fears of Christendom, and to travel to the very frontier of good and evil.
Seventeen-year-old Isolde, a Lady Abbess, is trapped in a nunnery to prevent her claiming her rich inheritance. As the nuns in her care are driven mad by strange visions, walking in their sleep, and showing bleeding wounds, Luca is sent to investigate and all the evidence points to Isolde’s criminal guilt. Outside in the yard they are building a pyre to burn her for witchcraft.
Forced to face the greatest fears of the medieval world—dark magic, werewolves, madness—Luca and Isolde embark on a search for truth, their own destinies, and even love as they take the unknown ways to the real historical figure who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.
Having read and enjoyed most of Philippa Gregory’s novels in The Cousins’ War and The Tudor Court series, I had high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I was overly impressed with Changeling.
The main characters are not engaging or even very interesting, and the only character who is permitted any kind of development in this novel is Ishraq, Isolde’s companion. For the most part, I enjoyed the character of Freize. However, after his bitter and childish outburst towards the end of the novel, I lost all interest in him.
At the moment, it looks like the Order of Darkness series is set to mimic the TV show Supernatural, though set in the 1400s and with all investigations being conducted by religious orders. The plot of this book even reminded me of a double episode, with two distinctly separate subplots tied together only by the characters and a continued reference to the vague, overarching power of the Order of Darkness.
The name of the book seems a bit misleading. There is some small reference to Luca being a changeling at the beginning of the book, and some minor references to it throughout but ultimately it has absolutely no bearing on the content of the novel.
Though the blurb hints at love, there is little development on that front. The chemistry between Luca and Isolde seems so forced at the moment that I found myself more interested when there were a few passing mentions of a possible relationship between Isolde and Ishraq.
The name and blurb of Changeling promises much and delivers little. The plot feels light and watered down, almost as if this were a palate cleanser for Philippa Gregory between writing her darker and more involved historical fiction novels. Whatever the reasons behind its faults, Philippa Gregory’s first attempt at a young adult novel is, unfortunately, not interesting enough for me to want to read more.