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Fiction Review: Harvest of Changelings, by Warren Rochelle

Warren Rochelle’s second novel, Harvest of Changelings, is about a group of outcast children with magical powers. Faced with terrible challenges, they band together and find solace and strength in each other. It’s a wonderful mix of Lord of the Rings, fairy lore, and coming of age story.

The novel posits a reality in which our world lies parallel to a world of magic. The worlds are distinct from each other, but they are also fundamentally linked. The primary impetus for much of the novel’s action is a war between Good and Evil (or close enough) that has been going on for many, many years. The novel draws on fairy lore and Wiccan traditions for its particular take on the supernatural, and this lends a kind of familiarity and authenticity to its wild mix of action and magic. I’ve started keeping an iron nail or two lying around just in case.

Though well crafted in most every respect, the novel’s greatest distinction is the care with which its characters are drawn, particularly the four special children at the heart of the action. Each of these children–Malachi, Russell, Jeff, and Hazell–comes from a uniquely broken home, and their reactions to the challenges they face have a compelling ring of truth to them.

Much care is taken to render even the minor characters and villains as human as possible. Readers who have had their heart broken, or suffered a moment of doubt and insecurity, or tried their hardest and failed anyway–that is, most everyone–will recognize something of themselves in the novel, and find a measure of comfort: the protagonists learn from their mistakes and grow as people, and only those who choose it are bound to the negative cycles of their past.

The diverse cast of the novel manages to be successful rather than unwieldy in large part because of the calculated method with which the prose is crafted. The story jumps from perspective to perspective in rapid succession, and each transition helps add to the web of knowledge that connects every part of the story while giving weight to the setting, the action, and the characters. Also, journal entries and transcripts of radio and television broadcasts are intercut throughout the other, more intimate and character-oriented segments. These documentary style “artifacts” lend a sense of context and legitimacy to the story even as they color (and are colored by) what the reader knows of the characters and plot.

But these are realizations that primarily come after reflection. The screws begin to tighten on page one, and the stakes are always on the rise. Fans of fast-paced, character-driven fantasy will find it well worth their time to ferret out a copy of this wonderful book.