Family, Fantasy, Horror

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

This was a novel I have been most excited to read and I wanted to make sure I would get the chance to read it before the year ends. I love magical realism and I love the idea of changeling children even more. It doesn’t hurt that the cover is really beautiful! Anyways, here is my review:

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father when his wife Emma begins to act strange. Emma acts uninterested in their new baby boy, and while her symptoms were at first dismissed as being signs of post-partum depression, it quickly becomes clear that there is a lot more going on. And then it comes too late, as Emma commits a horrific act and vanishes, seemingly, into thin air. Heartbroken but determined to get answers, Apollo begins a journey beyond all imagining. But will he be prepared for the horrors that lie ahead?

The first half of this novel gripped me. There was a quirkiness to the storytelling, as we read about Apollo’s childhood, and his journey into adulthood where he meets – and falls in love with – Emma. I loved reading about Apollo’s dreams, and how he got into the book dealing business. The author did a great job of setting the stage for the story. And when the story became darker, it really chilled me to the bone. I knew something terrible was going to happen with Emma and Apollo and the baby, but reading it was more shocking than I had imagined – and I mean this in a good way! I wish that the author had created more of a buildup to this dark turn of events but I was so engrossed in Apollo’s character and the story that I didn’t mind the abruptness too much. When the next section of the story began, I was intrigued to see what Apollo would do next. In terms of character development, I think the author did a great job in portraying the way grief, anger, and confusion can change a person. However, the story itself started to become a little too strange for me. I like weirdness and whimsical twists, but I also really like when things are explained properly and transitions are made cleanly. And that didn’t happen here. There were so many things thrown in that weren’t explained properly! I wish the author had taken the time to develop the storyline of the witches and the hidden island and the bombing and the sheep’s head and the folktales and the ogre … and just so many other things. This second half of the novel felt very jumbled, as if the author was trying to throw in all sorts of different elements to make multiple points on all sorts of issues. Suddenly, there are warnings about the use of social media, and then we move onto the theme of family and beliefs and fairy tales being life lessons, and … well, you get the gist of it. Nothing was clearly outlined and the story lost the wonderful focus it had had in the beginning. So while the beginning of this novel was wonderful and scintillating, the second half of the story was a jumbled mess that left me wanting something different. I know a lot of other people really enjoyed this novel so maybe this is just me. But I’m giving this book a 2/5 stars.

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