I enjoyed Delia Sherman’s young-adult fantasy Changeling quite a bit. It’s the story of Neef, who was kidnapped from the mortal world at birth to dwell in the fantastic “New York Between,” and raised as a sort of second-class citizen of Faerie. This is perhaps tired territory, but Sherman manages neat twists on some very hackneyed tropes. One element in Changeling‘s favor is that its faerie denizens draw from multiple mythologies and folklores (there’s a helpful glossary at the back). The faeries of Changeling are also not all sweetness and light; many of them are indifferent or actively hostile to mortal concerns, which feels more true to their folkloric origins than many modern interpretations (particularly those aimed at younger readers). I also appreciated the explicit nods to Kay Thompson’s Eloise, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (some of whose characters have cameos) as well as the implicit reference to E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Neef’s literal status as a changeling can certainly be read as a metaphor for the sense of alienation and not-fitting in that every adolescent undergoes. The book worked best for me when that was the only obvious metaphor at work — the fashion vampires of New York’s theatre district and, particularly,the Dragon of Wall Street felt forced in comparison to Sherman’s otherworldly versions of Central Park and the New York Harbor.
But even though I thought the novel’s final third flagged a bit, on the whole I found it fast-moving, funny, and surprisingly fresh.
Needs More Demons? Not a bit of it.