Book Review: Changeling’s Island

Freer, Dave. Changeling’s Island (Baen Books) Kindle Edition

Only the semi-bad gal is ever bored in this fantastic tale of adventure and growing up.

Tim Ryan is your typical Australian teenager, except for his horrible luck in parents and the strange things that happen when he gets nervous. Like air conditioners catching fire. After a “friend” at school persuades him to try shoplifting, and the store catches fire (see air conditioner), his mother has had enough. She can’t send him to his father, who works overseas, so she ships Tim to live with his paternal grandmother on Flinders Island, out beyond the black stump.

Unknown to Tim, he has family connections to Flinders Island and to the sea. Magical connections, for good and for ill. He also has no internet, no cash, no cell service, and no idea how much work he’s going to have to do on his grandmother’s property to help her feed both of them. And just off shore, a seal woman weaves her spell, calling Tim to the land of the Sidhe. But the land also calls him. Irish and Aboriginal, Tim must find a way to tap both his heritages, because when things go wrong, they go very wrong indeed.

I loved this book and read it in two long, delicious gulps. Tim is pitch perfect – I could see him at my school, slouched in the back of the classroom trying to be invisible. The adults are spot on as well, and Dave Freer blends the real world of life in an isolated, harsh place with Celtic and Aboriginal traditions. I’m somewhat familiar with Australia, but you don’t have to be in order to enjoy the book. Tim’s grandmother is a sympathetic character even when she’s at her grumpy, suspicious worst. You don’t need to know Australian history to understand why she’s so defensive, because Dave gives you enough through hints and asides.

The book is officially young adult, and I would have no qualms about handing it to any teenager I know, and probably as young as 12, although you might have to explain a few things. There is hunting and fishing for subsistence, and violence and crimes hinted at but not shown. Good is rewarded, evil punished, and you get the sense that the characters are probably going to do pretty well ever after. It’s one of the few books I’ve read, closed, and wanted to shove at the English teachers at my school, saying “This, buy this for your library. The guys will love it!” And the girls will too, but I suspect it will resonate more with boys.

Two paws of approval, highly recommend.

Note: I purchased this book for my own use and did not receive any remuneration or promotional consideration.