Thursday, March 29, 2007

Harvest of Changelings, by Warren Rochelle

In Harvest of Changelings Warren Rochelle introduces the reader to a modern day fairy tale. Or, perhaps that should be a modern day faerie tale. Ben Tyson is a librarian from Garner, North Carolina. In the prologue (set in 1981), Ben met and loved a fairy named Valeria. She loved him back and together they had a son named Malachi. When Malachi was still an infant Valeria was murdered by the Formoii, an offshoot branch of faerie intent on destroying Valeria's Daoine Sidhe faerie. The first chapter moves ahead ten years and it is now 1991. Malachi is ten years old and beginning to exhibit his magical heritage which Ben has not mentioned or prepared him for.

Harvest of Changelings
uses Ben Tyson as a framing device for the story. Excerpts from Ben's journals are used to give an adult perspective which gives shape to the story Rochelle is telling. But, while the story is told mostly through Ben Tyson's eyes, Harvest of Changelings is not about Ben. Harvest of Changelings is about Malachi and three other children who are discovering their identities as magical beings in a mundane world and dealing with the ever increasing threats against their safety.

This is a different kind of faerie tale. While the prologue sets up the idea of a war amongst the faerie, the first third of the novel (or more) is little more than a coming of age story. The prologue, which is very much out of place with the pacing of the rest of the novel, is necessary because it tells us what we need to know about these children and their powers. The reader will not spend chapters wondering what exactly is going on here. Unfortunately, the reader will spend chapters wondering when exactly Rochelle is going to get to the point. The early chapters, or viewpoint segments as there are only eight chapters in the 300+ page novel, introduce Malachi, Jeff, Russ, and Hazel to the reader and they each have their own story which needs to be addressed. The construction of the novel in this manner makes sense, but it is frustrating because the prologue tells us a war is coming but the reader must then face page after page of bad parenting, misunderstanding teachers, and outcast children finding out who they are.

With that said, once these children do find out what they can do, Harvest of Changelings starts rolling. The danger starts to build, the viewpoint of a black magic user begins to hint at the stakes introduced in the prologue, and when strange events begin to happen around the children, in the town, and in North Carolina at large, the novel becomes more imperative. Now the reader begins to truly care about what is happening and now we wonder where Rochelle is taking the novel.

The fact that Harvest of Changelings focuses on children does not make this a children's book. There is darkness here and it isn't the darkness of Harry Potter. This is adult darkness, adult violence, and adult themes. It only gets darker before daylight.

What is the bottom line here? Warren Rochelle has created a very interesting and compelling look at a world where faerie is just outside our perception and knocking at the doors of our reality. This is not a perfect creation. If we turn too quickly some of the construction still clunks a little bit. There are rough edges here. The pacing is a bit off. With all that said, Harvest of Changelings is a worthy entry as a modern day fantasy where the light is in hiding and the darkness is barking down our door.

Harvest of Changelings is a interesting story and well told. There are flaws, certainly, but not enough to suggest that this should be avoided. Rather, this is a good introduction to an author who is working with some good ideas and just needs some more polishing on the execution of those ideas. Certainly, Harvest of Changelings is worth the time spent reading the novel. This novel is not enough to create Warren Rochelle as a brand where every publication is met with eager anticipation (not as, say, The Atrocity Archives did for Charles Stross). It is enough, however, that when the last page is turned and the cover is closed we can sit back and know that we enjoyed the journey Rochelle guided us through.

Reading Copy provided courtesy of Golden Gryphon Press.

No comments: