May 2012, Young Adult
Simon Pulse, $18.99, 272 pages, Amazon ASIN 1442453443 Part of a series
Have you ever wondered what people did before the number zero? It has always existed, right? Not so. Changeling is about a world where zero is just starting to exist and to open up whole new worlds for people - and that is a fascinating adventure to be a part of.
Luca is known as a Changeling. He is a handsome and clever boy from a small Italian village. No one thought he should have been as handsome or as intelligent as he was. At the age of seventeen, Luca has made a terrible mistake. He has decided that he was able to think for himself. As a member of a monastic order in 1453, that was not only unusual, it was downright dangerous. This ability got Luca attention from the Order of Darkness, a group tasked with discovering the mysteries of the world. Which is something that Luca's inquisitive mind does naturally.
While Luca is being scouted out by the group, Isolde is discovering that her life is falling apart. Her beloved father left her with nothing - except the choice to become a nun or marry a jerk. Given those choices, Isolde went for the nunnery. There, Isolde finds herself in the middle of trouble - stigmatas, poisoned nuns - things that are generally frowned upon in early Renaissance Italy. When Luca comes along to investigate, Luca and Isolde and their friends Freize and Ishraq find that nothing is as it seems and that discovering the truth may mean life or death.
When it comes to the world and the historical tidbits thrown into this book, I really enjoyed it. I liked hearing about the world, the way that knowledge developed, the way that the early Muslims were able to search for knowledge and answers, and the journey of learning that Isolde and Luca took. In those terms, this book was a hit for me. I don't know if those sorts of things would interest the target audience - young adults - but it certainly intrigued me and kept my attention.
What didn't keep my attention were the mysteries that the main characters were supposed to be uncovering or the main characters themselves. I always hate it when a book goes out of its way to tell me how wonderful a character is. That always makes me suspicious. I would much rather that they show me, so I can find out for myself. Otherwise, I feel like the author is trying too hard to sell me something I might not otherwise believe, and I become disillusioned. That was the case with Luca. Don't tell me how clever and wonderful he is - let me see it. If your writing can't convince me, then I'd rather not waste my time.
I have always loved Philippa Gregory and the idea of a supernatural take on things seemed appealing. While I enjoyed the world that Gregory created, I don't know that I would be back for another round. Overall, the characters needed more depth and more likability to really pull my in for a second shot, and these just didn't succeed in that arena.
-- Louise VanderVliet
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