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Werewolves And Demons And Nuns … No Thanks

Mandy C.’s never read any other Philippa Gregory books, but if they’re all as boring as Changeling, she won’t be rushing to add them to her to-read pile.

Werewolves And Demons And Nuns … No Thanks

BOOK REPORT for Changeling (Order of Darkness #1) by Philippa Gregory

Cover Story: This is a PHILIPPA GREGORY Book, Y’all
BFF Charm: Uh, No
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Ben Stein
Bonus Factor: Sidekicks
Relationship Status: Terrible First Date

Cover Story: This is a PHILIPPA GREGORY Book, Y’all

That fancy dragon ouroboros-like-thing at the start of the book title is kind of neat. Oh wait, that’s not the book’s title? That’s the series title? Where’s the book—oh, I see. That tiny type at the bottom right. And who wrote it? Oh yes—PHILIPPA GREGORY. The size 48 font and it being written in the only color on the cover make that pretty dang clear.

There’s also a knife.

(This cover would have been so much more fun to write about.)

The Deal:

Luca Vero is a 17-year-old who thinks too much. And in 1453, thinking too much will either get you killed (because heresy) or inscripted into a mysterious order of the Catholic Church that has been given the grand task of traveling Europe to investigate the fears of the people (i.e., shady business with possible supernatural causes). When Luca is sent on his first mission—to investigate possible demonic activity at a nunnery—he’s thrown into a situation he might not come out of unscathed.

Sounds awesome, right? It could have been. But it’s not.

BFF Charm: Uh, No

As a main character, Luca is supposed to be enigmatic and mysterious. He is neither. He is bland and a total teacher’s pet. He’s also sexist to boot. (Although I have to give him some leeway on that last criticism. The book does take place in 1453.)

The main female character in the book, Lady Isolde, is a spoiled daughter of a lesser lord. She was raised to think that she’d inherit land and power after her father’s death, but—SPOILER ALERT—her brother is all like, “Hahaha, you’re ridiculous. A woman in a position of power? Hahahaha.” (Again, 1453.) She revolts against her oppressors eventually, but Luca’s boring personality overpowers much of what could have earned her a maybe in the BFF category.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

This is my first time reading a PHILIPPA GREGORY book. So I have no idea if her penchant for writing historical fiction causes her to downplay the swoon (since people wouldn’t have talked about it openly back in those days), or if she toned it down expressly because this was a YA novel. (Her first.) When two people are supposedly falling madly in love with each other—taken from the book’s synopsis, not my reading of the book—however, and they barely say 100 words to each other in 315 pages … there’s something amiss.

Talky Talk: Ben Stein

I’ve read a lot of bad writing in my day, y’all, but PHILIPPA GREGORY could win first prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with this gem:

The hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a handgun going off in his face.

She then goes on to spend much of the story telling readers what’s happening rather than showing us. I realize that “show, don’t tell” is a grade school-level writing principle, but I found myself stopping every few pages to reread a line that certainly couldn’t be as bad as I thought—but was. I wish Gregory had spent a lot more time on developing a story that swept me away. Instead, I felt like I was stuck having to take a horrendously boring museum tour led by the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Bonus Factor: Sidekicks



The one saving grace of this book is the fact that there are two “sidekick” characters that hint at the story that could have been. Ishraq is a Moor and a childhood friend of Isolde’s. She can fight better than most men, has studied science and mathematics, and is loyal to a fault. Freize, Luca’s friend/manservant, is witty and smarter than he seems. (He’s also way too easily offended, but no one’s perfect.)

Casting Call:



Justin Baldoni as Luca Vero

Melissa Ordway as Isolde

I went purely on character dscription in choosing these actors. I feel bad assigning anyone to the huge task of trying to add life to these characters.

Relationship Status: Terrible First Date

Changeling sucked (ha!) me in with an awesome premise and the promise of excitement and adventure. When it picked me up in a busted Subaru Brat, I tried to overlook it. When it took me to dinner at Olive Garden, I figured it just didn’t want to try anything “iffy” on a first date. But when it started telling me over dessert that its favorite thing to do on the weekends is turn on some easy listening and read small appliance user manuals, I texted a friend to fake an emergency and didn’t even give it a hug when it dropped me back at my house.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Simon & Schuster. I received neither chocolate covered pretzels nor money for this review (dammit!). Changeling is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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