So, Philippa Gregory is writing a YA series, and this is the first installment. It is not great. It is not good, either. Even "mediocre" would be an undeserved compliment, because this book failed so hard to live up to my expectations (which were not high to begin with), that I'm a little miffed. And it's not even a so-bad-it's-good book, which would have redeemed it in some way. It's just pretty bad. And that is a sad thing.
Changeling is the first book in the Order of Darkness series, and both of those titles would lead you to believe that this is a much more exciting book than it is. It's set in 15th century Italy and features teenagers Luca, a boy tasked with investigating strange goings-on at an abbey (like stigmata!), and Isolde, the Lady Abbess who may be at the center of said goings-on.
This premise could have been so good, but instead it's boring. The solution to the mystery is telegraphed right from the beginning and will come as a surprise to no one. (It's sad that it does come as a surprise to the characters.) The dialogue is repetitive, the sentence structure is simplistic, and the "clues" Gregory drops are more like anvils. And then after Luca wraps up the mystery at the abbey, the book goes on pointlessly for another 100 pages, featuring an investigation into a supposed werewolf in another town. This mystery, while blessedly shorter, is even more obvious, and I really don't know why it was included, unless there was a page count goal. It felt very much like a bad monster-of-the-week episode of a bad tv show.
And then there are the characters. Luca and Isolde are bland, Luca especially. They have hopes and fears, but we're told about them, not shown. Neither have much personality. The ancillary characters are stock: Luca's sidekick is the fool who is wiser than he appears, and Isolde's maid is the exoticized, dark-skinned foreigner with dangerous knowledge from afar.
All of these factors show that Gregory feels like she needs to write down for her audience, which is a rookie mistake, and an unforgivable one. The characters have no nuance, the writing itself is lazy and unimaginative, the mystery is ridiculously thin, and the romance she tries to foist on her readers near the end is so unbelievable (seeing as her two leads have no personality to speak of), it's insulting.
I say all this having read and greatly enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl, which was soapy and fun and fascinating, even though I knew Anne was going to lose her head at the end of it. I compare that to this travesty, which for all its faults could have been made enjoyable if only one aspect of the book (writing or character or plot or setting or something) were engaging. None of it was.
Naturally, then, I have two paperback copies to give away, courtesy of Big Honcho Media! I encourage you to enter, even though I clearly didn't enjoy the book, because hey, you might like it. Fill out the quick form below for a chance to win. Then you can commiserate with me or tell me just how wrong I am.