Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Publication Date: May 29th, 2012
Simon Pulse
Format: ARC, 272 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.    

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.    

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.     

I have read several of Ms. Gregory’s Tudor series. I love her writing and her dedication to keep her novels as close to the history books as possible. I was so excited when I found out that she was writing a YA historical and got even more excited when I got an ARC of this book in the mail! Needless to say, I didn’t waste much time and got started on it right away.
I have to say that while this book held so little of what I’ve loved about Philippa’s writing, it was passable enough for entertainment’s sake. I was swept away back to a scary time when religion – most specifically Catholicism and Rome had the world on their hands. When the difference between fanatics and heretics was what separated people from enduring unimaginable tortures in the hands of those appointed by church. And while there weren’t any of those scenarios in the book, if you’ve ever been familiar with her novels, you would have those very thoughts at the back of your mind.
Changeling is a story of a gifted seminarian who left his vocation for reasons that could have earned him a stint on a rack. This book was a fact-finding mission about everything that was paranormal and, or unexplainable in the world. At a time when the only explanation was either witchcraft or Satan’s doings, Luca Vero has his work cut out for him. His first mission was to explain the sudden madness that descended upon the nuns of a monastery reluctantly headed by a seventeen year-old Lady Abess, Isolde. The investigation unearthed some pretty disturbing findings least of them had nothing to do with the paranormal.
I thought it was pretty ingenious. I love the mix of fantasy, religion and the mystical. Gregory twisted those elements in such a way that the eventual explanation had more to do with basic human nature and nothing at all to do with theology.
If you ask me, you can ignore the romance that the synopsis alluded to. It was non-existent in the book. I’m pretty disappointed that they’re trying to sell a love angle that was barely there. Aside from some realizations about how Isolde and Luca were attractive to each other, nothing really happened. I did love Freize and Ishraq’s chemistry.
Another thing that I had a problem with this book was the lack of cohesiveness between the two missions that they found themselves solving. At 272 pages, it almost felt like Ms. Gregory had a collection of short stories that she wanted to publish and this series was her outlet. But perhaps this series will be told in this method: a group of unrelated stories told as they make their way to the world, solving mysteries and debunking the unexplained.
VERDICT: If you’ve ever had a problem with long, drawn out historicals, Philippa Gregory’s Changeling is just the thing to cure your boredom. I couldn’t resist staying up till the wee hours of the morning just to finish this book. Even if I had problems, I still think Ms. Gregory is a master story teller.

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