Changeling - Philippa Gregory I had really really high hopes for this book. From the moment I read the blurb (actually from when I read the first half of the blurb, by the second half all I could think was OMGOMGOMGTHISSOUNDSOGOOD and I was barely paying attention), I was SO EXCITED to read this. It sounded unique and interesting and dark and exciting, and FANTASTIC, supernatural historical fiction with a hint of romance. And I could not wait.

I'll be honest, I was completely disappointed.

Now, I'm not saying this was a BAD book. It wasn't. In places, it was even a good book. But it was not at all what I was expecting, and, all in all, not something that I could find myself really getting into. Even the plot didn't live up to what I was expecting, with the blurb promising me a nunnery plagued by supernatural phenomena. While that was a part of the plot, it existed for only the first third or so of the book, and then the plot went down a rabbit hole that, while not particularly bad, had absolutely no end in sight, and still doesn't, even now that I've finished the book.

Plot problems aside (how did something about nuns and witchcraft turn almost exclusively into a story about a werewolf?), my biggest problem with this book was a lack of emotion. I liked the characters, some more than others (both of the "supporting" characters, Ishraq and Freize, were phenomenally written, the leads not so much), but there was very little depth in them, and none of them seemed to have a huge role in the story. The dialogue was limited, and very stilted when it existed, and, overall, the characters didn't accomplish very much over the course of the novel. No one changed, no one grew, no one had any great emotional revelation or overcame any particular adversity. In fact, it was very much as though Gregory was simply setting up for the second (and third, and fourth, and so on) book in her series, and this was merely a stepping stone. As much as I love a good series, I feel that the books in a series or trilogy (especially the first book) should be able to stand alone, with their own exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution. It doesn't matter to me if the events are a continuation of what happened in previous books, but I do feel that every book should have it's own unique set of problems in the plot that the characters must overcome, because, after all, that is the point of a story. This book could not, in any way, shape, or form, stand alone, and that bothered me greatly. It set up the circumstances of the story, and a brief amount of sub-par world building took place (why, in a novel set in Italy, do half the characters have decidedly British names?), but of the problems created in the first part of the book (and there were actually very few), only one seemed to build into a legitimate plot...and it's a plot that seems destined to continue over the entire series, certainly not something that can be resolved in one book. This disjointedness made the entire novel a bit confusing and a bit boring, and left me wondering why exactly I was reading it, not because I felt it was a waste of my time, but because I was truly unsure of what the purpose of the story was.

Overall, I know this review sounds bad. That might be a bit unfair. I'll admit, most of the problems I had were personal preference and writing style related, and if you are a Philippa Gregory fan, or someone who isn't bothered by the issues I just talked about, you will probably love this book. If you're looking for a unique read, I can certainly recommend it. If you're fascinated by this era, specifically as relates to ancient Christianity, you will probably enjoy it. If you're interested in something decent that will hopefully build into an exciting series, you might want to give this a chance. If, however, you're looking for something dark, mysterious, and thrilling with a hint of romance, this is SO not what you should be picking up.