Changeling by Philippa Gregory
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publishing Info: 2013 by Simon and Schuster (first published 2012)
Star Rating: 2/5
Back Cover Summary:
In 1453, seventeen-year-old Luca Vero, accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, is recruited to help investigate evil across Europe but frees his first subject, Isolde, from captivity in a nunnery, and together they seek the one who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.
Philippa Gregory is such a well known name in the book world, and especially in historical fiction. This was my first time reading one of her works and unfortunately it was a poor introduction. It really wouldn’t encourage me to read any of her other books, but I would have hoped some of her other novels are far better than this. It was quite shocking to read such a bad book by a bestselling and well-known author.
The premise is interesting and had potential, but it fell a long long way from that. My main issue with this book is the plot – or lack of it. It reads like its split in two halves. The first half of the book is readable but unremarkable. Luca is investigating witchcraft at the nunnery where Isolde has recently been made Lady Abbess. I found the mystery intriguing and didn’t guess the ‘solution’ to the investigation. It wasn’t a great mystery, but it was okay. There was just about enough to keep me reading.
It went quite downhill after that point. The second half of the book is a rambling mess with no direction. Coincidence after coincidence follow one after another. They happen to stumble upon another unusual happening to investigate totally by chance and decide to get involved, but it’s totally unconnected from the first half of the book. I couldn’t get into the second half at all because I could not see the point of it. The ‘solution’ to this investigation was highly predictable. I guessed it almost instantly so there was nothing to keep me engaged. There was no end goal, no point. There wasn’t even a point in all the characters being there except Gregory wanted them to all be there, so she found a lame excuse to shoehorn them all together. The plot (if you can call it that) is poorly planned out and it just seems to be a random jumble of events.
A book with a questionable plot can be carried by good characters. That was not the case here. All of the characters, including the two protagonists, were totally bland. Luca and Isolde had absolutely no personality. I didn’t feel invested in them at all because they were so flat and uninteresting. I don’t think I have read another book that had quite such bad characters. Usually at least one has a flicker of a personality, even if the others are weak. Not in this case. None of the characters were interesting or likeable and none of them developed. The characters have vague goals but Gregory steers them away from those goals to suit her plot and hopes the reader won’t notice. I noticed.
The one thing I did like about the book, and which salvaged it a star, is the setting. It’s clear Gregory did her research. I felt transported to 15th Century Italy and the details really made it come to life. This is clearly where her strength lies, but it couldn’t make up for the total mess of the rest of this train wreck.
This is the first book in the series and I wouldn’t choose to keep reading. However, I bought the next two books a while ago so I will attempt to get through them and see if I hate them just as much.