Seriously, Philippa Gregory?! Don’t you usually write better books than this? OR a review of Changeling by Philippa Gregory

24 Jun

Did you read The Other Boleyn Girl? Chances are, you did because it was a really awesome novelization of Mary Boleyn‘s life. And Philippa Gregory has written many other fictionalized biography type novels and they have all be great (or at least that is what I hear because I have not read them all). Although I didn’t hate reading Changeling, Ms Gregory’s first attempt at the YA genre, I can’t say it was a great book. I wouldn’t even say it was a good book. It was simply… okay.

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.      

Had this book been a debut novel for a much less experienced author I would not be so harsh right now, but Philippa has been around awhile. She is a well established author and even has a doctorate in 18th century literature. So why was her book so… predictable?

There are two “mysteries” in Changeling. I put the word mysteries in quotations because I figured them both out almost immediately after being introduced to those parts of the story. The pieces were so easy to put together I felt like I was playing Clue Jr... that’s right not even as hard as regular Clue. The first mystery was pretty good and interested (even though I was able to figure almost all of it pretty early on), but the second was just ridiculous. I won’t go into details… but it really doesn’t make much sense.

Since there were two mysteries in this book it also felt like the author wrote the first one, realized it wasn’t quite enough to make a novel, or wanted to further the ongoing plot enough to keep people coming back, and then tacked on a quickie mystery to the end. Sure if it had ended with the first mystery solved I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read any future Order of Darkness novels (yes, this does intend to become a series), but the book would have made a bit more sense.

The characters were fine, I suppose, but neither of the main two, Luca and Isolde, were particularly developed. Perhaps Philippa Gregory has become so dependent on real historical figures that she has forgotten how to develop a fictional character properly. They simply weren’t very fleshed out. I think I learned more about the secondary characters, Frieze and Ishraq, than I did the two main ones. Even the interactions between Frieze and Ishraq seemed more thought out and realistic than the interactions between Luca and Isolde.

The romantic aspect of the novel felt a bit like a Harlequin style romance novel… only all the sex was taken out. Lots of build up going nowhere. Seriously, there’s a handsome novice priest turned Inquirer and a beautiful Lady Abbess, who was forced into taking vows… and there are lots of sparks, but nothing ever happens. Apparently it is because they are sworn to God or something like that, but mostly it feels like a giant cop-out to keep the book more YA appropriate (apparently Philippa Gregory never read a Gossip Girl book).

As for the synopsis… I don’t remember ANY alchemists or death dancers and there was no mention whatsoever of them being led to any real life historical figure. I started the book yesterday and finished this morning. If any of those things were in there I would remember them. It really makes me wonder if perhaps Ms. Gregory actually wrote a longer book originally and her publisher was worried it would be too long for a YA audience. If so I would like to remind Simon Pulse Publishing that the current YA reading kids have read Harry Potter, Twilight, and Cassandra Clare novels. Pretty sure they/we could have handled a 400 page book.

Rating: didn't like it it was ok liked it really liked it it was amazing

I really want to give it 3 stars because I did enjoy it and do want to know what happens next, but there is no reason it should have been so poorly written. Hopefully the next one will be better overall and I will be able to forget this let down. I do, however, think it would make an excellent CW showkind of like Supernatural set in the mid 15th century.

2 Responses to “Seriously, Philippa Gregory?! Don’t you usually write better books than this? OR a review of Changeling by Philippa Gregory”


  1. Light Summer YA Reading: The Changeling by Philippa Gregory « The History Lady - July 23, 2012

    […] Seriously, Philippa Gregory?! ( […]

  2. Light Summer YA Reading: The Changeling by Philippa Gregory – Geri Gibbons - July 17, 2016

    […] Seriously, Philippa Gregory?! ( […]

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