The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue

It is a commonly held myth that, among the birds and the beasts, the mother recognizes her young as her own and will refuse a stranger thrust into the den or nest. This is not so. ... Unfortunately, humans are more suspicious and less tolerant of intruders in the nest.

Changelings (or hobgoblins) are interesting creatures: they find a child, usually one who doesn't quite fit in, maybe has problems with his parents, and they learn as much as they can about him. Then, when the time is right, they kidnap the child and one of the changelings takes his place, taking on his appearance, and eventually becoming human. And the human child? Well, he becomes a changeling himself, never aging and living in the woods, until the appropriate child comes along for him and he returns to the world of humans.

Henry Day was seven when he ran away (rather than tend to his twin baby sisters) and the hobgoblins caught him. He was soon dubbed "Aniday" by the other changelings, while the changeling who took his place insinuated himself into Henry Day's life, reminding himself to grow at a proper rate so he wouldn't be found out.

The book alternates between the two Henry Days, each one telling his story. The two stories interweave, occasionally viewing the same scene from both perspectives, as the new Henry and Aniday each try to live out their new lives. Henry is constantly afraid of being found out, exposed as a fraud; Aniday misses his family but remembers them less and less as he becomes almost an animal. As Aniday tries to piece together his life before being taken, Henry starts to remember fragments of his own life from before, back before he himself became a changeling.

The story reminded me in some ways of The Book of Lost Things, about a boy stolen from his own world into another, about dark truths behind fairy tales. But The Stolen Child has its own rhythm and pacing; it's a romance story, a coming-of-age story, an adventure story. It's also a tale about the way the modern world is killing off the old stories and squeezing out creatures like fairies and goblins.

I really enjoyed this book but it may have stood out more if I weren't also reading Winter Wood (the third in The Various series) and had some of the fairy tale-related books spread out more in my reading diet.

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 08, 2008 | Comments (0)


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