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Delia Sherman
Viking, 304 pages

Delia Sherman
If any of Delia Sherman's work should be remembered, it should be The Porcelain Dove, a novel of intoxicating beauty. She has also contributed short fiction to such anthologies as Bending the Landscape and Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Through A Brazen Mirror
SF Site Review: The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller's Guide to the Edge of Faerie

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Amal El-Mohtar

I'm a country girl. Not only that, but I'm a country girl who doesn't border a Big City. I spent a week in Southern California without once visiting L.A., I resent London for stealing a digital camera from me, and, like every good almost-Ottawan, I have a pathological dislike of Toronto. I share this so that when I tell you that Delia Sherman's Changeling makes me want to visit New York City, you can fully appreciate how big a deal that is.

Changeling is set in a place called New York Between, one of many potential New Yorks sharing the same space as New York Outside, the one that regular mortals are familiar with. In New York Between, "mortals don't call the shots. The Fairy Folk do"; it's a vibrant, colourful mishmash of folkloric and literary creatures and characters living in Central Park, on Broadway, in the Metropolitan Museum, in Chinatown or Wall Street. Each of these places has a Genius, a spirit that embodies it: the Museum has its Curator, the Harbor has its Mermaid Queen, Central Park has its Green Lady. Into all this comes Neef, a mortal changeling girl being raised in Central Park and longing to take part in the kinds of adventures that have made up a good deal of her education. Before long, her curiosity has her breaking rules and getting into trouble, and the only way to get out of it is to complete a quest that will send her traipsing through unfamiliar parts of her city with unlikely allies and confronting powerful Geniuses who'd like nothing better than to make a morsel of her.

I had heard that this novel was in the works three years ago, when I was lucky enough to hear Delia Sherman speaking on a panel at Mythic Journeys in Atlanta. I've been looking forward to it pretty much since then, and it hasn't disappointed. I was surprised to discover that it's a young adult novel, given that the last two books by Sherman I'd read were The Fall of the Kings (with Ellen Kushner) and The Porcelain Dove, neither of which could ever hope to score a PG rating without the help of a good deal of fairy glamour. Changeling, however, is definitely a kids' book, of the same order as The Spiderwick Chronicles and Diana Wynne Jones' stuff, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Neef is a great character and makes a good narrator, the plot carried me along from quest-point to quest-point without ever getting boring or tired, and Sherman's evocation of New York Between is nothing short of delightful.

I was especially glad to find that, despite having a premise shared by quite a few recent novels (American Gods, Valiant), Changeling feels distinctly original. Sherman keeps things quirky, but strikes a great balance between humour and danger in her world, and the end result is that I want to go to Central Park and find out where the Blockhouse is, explore the nooks and crannies of the Metropolitan Museum, and check out how New York's Chinatown compares to that of Victoria. All in all this is a novel that kept tugging me back to it whenever I put it down, and one that I cheerfully recommend for children and adults alike.

Copyright © 2007 Amal El-Mohtar

Amal has a history of reading anything with pages. Now, she reads stuff online, too. She sometimes does other things, but that's mainly it.

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