Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Saturday, July 14, 2012
Title: Changeling
Series: Order of Darkness #1
Pages: 256 (ARC edition)
Published: May 24 2012
Source: publishers for review
Rating: 1/5

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.     

This is a mess. I've long since grown out of most of my misguided, uneducated affection for Philippa Gregory novels, but any lingering chances I will read her subsequent novels were firmly ended by this read. From beginning to end, this is a dull, vapid and uninvolving novel. Full of undeveloped, one-dimensional and just plain boring characters, with little to no plot to speak of, there's nothing to recommend about Changeling. It's a sloppy and anachronistic mess of a book, and one that doesn't leave much hope for the rest of this series. Simply and best put: Changeling is a disappointing mess, even for those who have grown inured to Gregory's ham-handed attempts to write historical fiction.

Changeling is supposedly the tale of two (very dry, very flat) protagonists, Luca Vero and his female counterpart of Isolde of Lucretili. It's hard to connect with these cardboard cutouts masquerading as characters, and even more difficult with their cliched background characters of Freize and Ishraq. I don't have anything to say about either protagonist; both Luca and Isolde failed to come to life as people, nor gave me cause to invest in their respective stories. There's no real "mystery" to anything that Luca investigates, nor is the "changeling" label ever fully explored by the author. It's mentioned maybe twice, and then... just dropped in favor of a ill-fated (and inauthentic) romantic plotline between two sets of characters.

 With no plot to speak of and with the adventures the group encounters coming across as sporadic, unrelated vignettes, it's hard to get a clear picture of the world that Gregory is attempting to create here. Is the supernatural real? Where are my alchemists and death dancers I was promised? This is an "Order of Darkness" novel, the first in an expected series, but bare lip service is paid to the idea of an overarching theme or message. This is Gregory's weakest effort on many fronts, and it shows throughout the dialogue-heavy novel, and badly. Events and reveals, plot twists are all predictable - from the twist about Isolde's fortunes to the "mystery" of the stigmata and poisoned nuns - each new revelation failed to achieve the any impact author was going for.

Changeling is affected, obvious and anachronistic. This review is unexpectedly hard to write because I cared so little about anything that was going on, nor about the main characters. Gregory's earlier novels aren't "good" per se, but they at least managed to entertain the reader, instead of bore them to tears, as this one does. You would think a novel with a trail about possessed and poisoned nuns would be a little more riveting. You'd be so so wrong. Lacking any significant character development, with a staid and predictable plot, Gregory is better suited to staying in the genre she's come to dominate. Stick with her fluffy, bodice-heaving novels and stay far, far away from Changeling.


  1. It's unfortunate that you didn't like this one, I've heard such great things about it but I know what it's like to read a book that has major hype surrounding it and ending up not liking it. Great review though it's nice to find a fellow Historical Fiction lover :) +New GFC follower!
    -Kimberly @ Turning The Pages

    1. I guess Philippa Gregory doesn't really work for me anymore, sadly. I've grown too much to enjoy her blunt and repetitive novels. I hope others enjoy it more than I do, though :)

      And thank yo u- it's nice to meet you! I'm off to check out your blog!


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