Although this book is pitched as a young adult novel, and I generally don’t read within this genre, I love Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction and so was keen to read her latest offering, which is a departure from her norm, focusing as it does on four fictional characters rather than real figures from the past.
I read the book in one sitting; easy to do given the author’s ability to transport her reader to another time, another place – into the head of another person. I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of history that echoes through the book; as usual, when reading a Philippa Gregory novel, I felt at ease that the story was grounded in sound historical fact. It was illuminating and moving to discover how young people lived in that era, and the limitations they faced. Goodness how I’d have struggled in fifteenth-century Italy!
Given the recent fascination with all things paranormal – vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies – I think the book beautifully reminds us that there was a time in world history when these things weren’t the fruits of authors’ and film-makers’ imaginations, but very vivid and tangible threats to God-fearing people worldwide. The author cleverly explores the roots of superstitions and legends, debunking myths, while simultaneously opening the door to a whole world of mystery and magic.
For me, the characterisation is the strongest element of the book. Each of the four main characters is real and likeable and strong and courageous. And there is the delicious suggestion of romance that may bloom in the future – for I assume there will be later novels, given that the ending is open.
Finally, the publisher Simon and Schuster has outdone itself with the artwork for the book, which made reading it all the more pleasurable an experience. A beautiful cover image, stunning maps on the inside covers and beautiful break- and chapter-opening artwork. I’m told that a UK publisher that is pioneering colour printing for novels has created a limited edition version of the book with full-colour illustrations – a fabulous idea.
All in all, it’s a five-star review for me on this one, and I will be looking out for the next title.
Changeling is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.