Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Changeling - Delia Sherman

I get the impression that Delia Sherman's tongue was quite firmly in her cheek when she wrote Changeling. This is a contemporary tale of Faerie that combines children's literature with pop culture in a witty, clever and intriguing manner. Neef is a mortal changeling who lives in New York Between, a parallel version of our New York where fairies, elves, vampires, demons, dragons, and numerous other familiar beings exist. Neef was stolen by fairies who replaced her with one of their own, a fairy changeling. She is protected by her fairy godmother, a large talking white rat named Astris. Neef is in search of Adventure and one day she runs into Peg Powler, an old bogeywoman, who lets slip the information that a Dance takes place every Winter and Summer Solstice and all the denizens of Central Park (where Neef lives) attend, including the other mortal changelings. Unlike Cinderella, Neef's fairy godmother has never allowed or encouraged Neef to attend, but she is determined to go this summer. She finds a Kazna Peri, who sells her some keep-awake (coffee to you and me !), and she is able to stay awake on Solstice night, despite the usual visit from the Sandman. Neef then sneaks out to attend the Solstice Dance, but in doing so she breaks the geas laid on her when she was Changed, and loses the protection of the Green Lady, the Genius of Central Park. Neef, however, nothing daunted, refuses to panic when she discovers she's about to be handed over to the Wild Hunt, and bargains with the Green Lady. If she can successfully accomplishes three tasks, she won't be thrown out of the Park or lose the Green Lady's protection. Neef agrees to get hold of the Mermaid Queen of New York Harbour's Magical Magnifying Mirror, a ticket for an orchestra seat for Peter Pan, featuring the original Tinkerbell, and the Scales of the Dragon of Wall Street.

Prior to making this bargain with the Green Lady, Neef encountered her fairy changeling at the annual Eloise Awards for the Most Spoiled Child, to which she was taken by Carlyle, a Japanese tengu, who had already found Jennifer (Neef's fairy changeling). Changeling, as Neef calls her, helps Neef with her quest to bring back the required objects for the Green Lady, startling Neef quite often in the process.

This books is riddled with allusions to children's books (the Water Rat from The Wind in the Willows and Stuart Little both live in Central Park), fairy-tale motifs, and contemporary culture (including references to computers, the New York Stock Exchange, Broadway ticket sharps amongst others).

I confess, I only know New York secondhand (thanks in large part to Helene Hanff's memoirs), but I could still recognise it in the descriptions of New York Between. I thoroughly enjoyed Changeling, which is also available from (So don't sit there, go and order a copy and enjoy yourself reading it !)

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