Title: Changeling Exile (Thirteen Realms Book One)
Publisher: Finesse Solutions
Author: Marina Finlayson
Price: $12.99 (paperback) / $2.99 (ebook)
The Fae King is missing. For twenty years, the Thirteen Realms have assumed that their rightful ruler is dead …. Allegra is a changeling. Abandoned by her Fae mother in Sydney with no food, no money, and no means of survival, she has carved out a place for herself alongside other changelings and exiles from the Thirteen Realms. Performing odd jobs for the Lord of Autumn, she hopes to one day earn her place in the land she considers her true home. But then she is ordered to work alongside the Hawk, one of the Fae King’s elite bodyguards, while tackling a seemingly simple task. Except that it’s not so simple, and Allegra and the Hawk are about to discover what really happened to the King of the Fae … if they survive ….
Changeling Exile was another book that came up in a list of recommendations. I was immediately struck by the cover, and downloaded the sample. Impressed by what I read of the first few chapters, I purchased the entire book and read it in a day.
First, the good points. The cover is awesome. I get so, so, so tired of urban fantasy and paranormal romances which feature the same variation on “skinny white chick with a cleavage and a bare midriff looking badass with her big sword.” Ugh! Enough already! Happily, the cover of Changeling Exile features a properly-proportioned woman in appropriate attire (e.g., she’s fully covered to protect against claws, fangs, and woman-eating trees). She even has wristguards. How cool is that?
Allegra is a terrific character. She’s loyal and self-assured (mostly; she’s not so sure about her singing ability). She was deeply hurt by her mother’s abandonment, but has not allowed that to sour her on forming relationships. She desperately wants to return home, but she won’t hurt those she cares about to do so. While she can be flippant when she is scared or nervous, she’s not one of those dime-a-dozen wiseass, badass heroines who is skilled in a dozen martial arts and can kill anything with her trusty enchanted sword — because she does get scared and nervous and she makes mistakes and, while she may be good with a knife, there’s no enchanted sword in sight. She’s wonderfully human.
The world of Changeling Exile is equally interesting. Humans are mostly ignorant of the existence of the Fae. Most Fae look down on humans as lesser beings, and the few who choose (or are forced) to live in the human realm can only do so by wearing an iron charm. Their magic is limited, and performing any sort of spellwork is taxing. As such, most Fae stick to the Thirteen Realms, the original lands created by the first King. While most urban fantasy references just the traditional Summer and Winter, here there are the additional lands of Autumn, Spring, Day, Night, Dusk, Dawn, Fire, Ocean, Air, Earth, and Illusion.
If I have one complaint about Changeling Exile, it is the relationship between Allegra and the Hawk. And since Changeling Exile is most definitely a paranormal romance, that’s a problem. I really don’t understand why they fell for one another. Individually, they are interesting characters, but they don’t really click as a couple. Allegra spends most of the book reminding the reader about just how darn handsome the Hawk is; and since the entire book is told from her point of view, we have no idea what is going on in his head or why he is attracted to her. There is a vast social distance between the two of them, and they only know what another for a few days; the Hawk starts out as a typical Fae in terms of his attitude towards humans and changelings and yet, within that span of only a few days, his opinion changes to such a degree that he is falling in love with one of them.
I found that to be a stretch. In terms of character development, it would have made a lot more sense if they had ended the first book with a grudging respect for one another, spent the second book slowly falling in love, and then the third in love and trying to figure out how they were going to make it work while saving the world and battling social prejudice.
(I actually found the relationship between Allegra and Yriell the Earthcrafter much more interesting than that between Allegra and the Hawk. Now that would have been a fun series.)
Overall, Changeling Exile is a fun, light, quick read filled with appealing characters. It will most likely be enjoyed by fans of Clara Coulson’s Frost Arcana series, Lindsey Buroker’s Death Before Dragons, Helen Harper’s The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic, and Annette Marie’s The Guild Codex.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published works can be found there.]