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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Stolen Child

Not all fairy tales are for children. Some of them are best suited for the adults in the family, people who truly understand how something evil and unexpected can so suddenly come along and snatch away forever the best that life has to offer. Keith Donohue’s The Stolen Child is one of those fairy tales.

Little did young Henry Day know when he decided to run away from home that he was being watched closely by a dozen hobgoblins who had been waiting for their chance to snatch him and substitute one of their own in his place. Using a combination of study, luck and their own special magic, these changelings are able to mold one of their own into such a perfect copy of the original that even parents and siblings are usually fooled into believing that nothing strange has happened.

This is the way that is has always been for the changelings. But times are changing, and much as any wild animal depending on ever diminishing forests for survival is finding it harder and harder to survive in the wild, by the 1950s the changelings are being threatened by the steady destruction of their natural habitat. Not too many years after Henry Day is taken into this band of perpetual children to wait his turn for recycling into the human race, a wait that can be as long as 100 years, things being to go downhill for the changelings.

In alternating chapters, Donohue tells his tale from the first person points-of-view of his two main characters, Henry Day (now known as Aniday to his fellow hobgoblins) and the changeling who has replaced Henry in his old life. Aniday, despite the fact that he can remember less and less of his old life as the years go by, can never quite accept his new existence with the tribe and feels compelled to learn about the family he left behind. The new Henry Day feels insecure in his own new life and becomes obsessed with finding out about the family he himself was snatched from decades earlier.

The Stolen Child is a nicely written coming-of-age novel wrapped around a story about the end of a way of life that had endured for centuries. Keith Donohue manages to make his cast of hobgoblins every bit as sympathetic as his human characters in this fairy tale that he has filled with lessons about life.

Rated at: 4.0

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