This is the first book in Philippa Gregory’s young adult series, Order of Darkness. I’ve had this book on my shelf for quite a while and finally picked it up expecting to read it in a day or two but sadly that just wasn’t the case. I am a big fan of Philippa Gregory. I love her Tudor and Cousins’ War series’ but I just couldn’t get into this book at all. I could only read it in small chunks, my attention kept wandering or, if I was reading at night, I kept falling asleep. I felt like the book dragged even though it was only 260 pages long. I felt like the novel just wasn’t as good as Gregory’s other works.
The novel is set in Italy in 1453, a year that people believed the world was going to end. It follows the stories of 17-year-olds Luca, an aspiring monk who is accused of heresy and employed to carry out investigations for a religious order; and Isolde, a young noblewoman who is forced into a nunnery against her will.
My first issue with this novel was that it seemed like two completely separate stories. The first part of the story happens then the second part happens and the only thing linking them was the fact that they involved the same characters. I felt like the story was coming to a close when the mystery of the nunnery was solved then realised I was only half-way through the book. It almost felt as if Gregory wrote the story, realised it was too short so added in the werewolf story to make it longer.
The twists in the novel seemed really obvious. I guessed what was going on at the nunnery long before Gregory revealed it and then again, in the second part of the novel, I guessed the mystery of the werewolf. Everything was foreseeable and because of that there was no suspense. I wasn’t turning the page to find out what was going to happen because I had already guessed what was going to happen.
I questioned whether a 17-year-old woman would be made Abbess even if she were rich. Or if a 17-year-old boy would be given the role and authority of enquirer. There was a hint that Luca was somehow special but it was not explored which is my biggest complaint about this novel. The title, Changeling, is misleading. There is some reference to Luca being one at the start of the novel and some small references throughout the book but it never goes any further than that. The fact that he is supposed to be a changeling has no bearing on the story at all. It doesn’t even have any bearing on his role as an enquirer as both times it is someone else who solves the mysteries. I am assuming that Gregory explores the idea further in the next books in the series but I didn’t understand why it was the title of this book. There is also no development of the love story between Isolde and Luca that is promised in the blurb other than them being a bit attracted to one another. There seemed to be no chemistry between them at all. I liked the two secondary characters much more than I liked Isolde and Luca. Ishraq was probably the most interesting character in the novel and the only character to develop in any way. Frieze added some much needed humour. I was much more interested in a possible relationship between them than Isolde and Luca.
Did Philippa Gregory put less effort into her young adult novel? Does she think that young adult’s need a simpler plot or to be spoken down to? I hope not. It would be a shame if this was the case. Maybe the fact that none of these characters are real-life people is the issue. Maybe without a historical figure to guide the story her writing is just not as good. I like Philippa Gregory, I enjoy her work but unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this.