The Replacement

I’m on my way back from a meeting with my publicity team (I hope they don’t mind me calling them that) at Egmont. Jo and Nicky are lovely, seem genuinely enthusiastic about the book and it’s so exciting to find out all the things that will be happening to me and it over the next few months.  I should be getting bound proofs in a few weeks, so it’s all coming together.

I had a two hour train trip down and a little time on the tube (three hours door to door) and in that time I read The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff cover to cover.  I loved it.

Like the last book I reviewed with excitement, The Replacement has a male protagonist and is based strongly on the mythology of faerie.  However, while Firebrand is set in a Scotland of the witch trials and more focused on stories of elves, The Replacement is set in the modern world, in the town of Gentry, and is more closely based on stories of faerie mounds and child stealing.

The main character, Mackie, is a replacement, or changeling.  The real Malcolm Doyle was stolen as a baby and Mackie is the changeling who was left in his cot, but while the changelings of mythology used to wither and die, Mackie lived and grew to be a teenaged boy in the human world.

I can’t say too much about the reason for his survival, for fear of spoilers, but Yovanoff has managed to weave faery myths into Mackie’s characterisation with deft brilliance, giving us a hero who is allergic to iron, blood (because of the iron in it) and consecrated ground (in one scene he snogs a girl with a tongue piercing and goes into anaphylactic shock!).  He is very real, and utterly conflicted.  He isn’t a jock hero, he’s physically weak and initially refuses the call to adventure represented by Tate and her missing sister.  He just wants to fit in, not make waves and not stand out in the human world that is killing him.  But when he finally enters the faerie mound under the slag heap, he cannot fit in there either, his human morality warring with his faery heritage.

Yovanoff manages to give us a real sense of otherness in Mackie, she captures the feeling of separateness, difference and isolation that I remember as a teenager, and which I am sure everybody feels at some time and in some way.  Although Mackie is a boy, he’s a hero every reader will identify with.  How could they not?

She also manages to write in a way that makes you suddenly choke up.  She deals with emotional scenes with a subtle pen that makes them more heart wrenching.   The town watching silently as their children are taken, the red shoes of the girl killed in the church, Mackie discovering just how serious his condition is and in one particular scene, he plays his music in front of a crowd and makes everyone remember feeling the way he does.

“It was the sound of being outside, of being alien.  It was the pulse that ran under everything and never let you forget that you were strange, that the world hurt just to touch.  Feelings too complicated to ever say in words, but they spilled out of the amplifiers, seeping into the air and filling the room.” p156.

To me this is a story that more than any other I’ve recently read, reminded me what it felt like to be a teenager, as inbetween life stages as Mackie is inbetween worlds, it is about growing up, it is about learning that sacrifice is also about acceptance and that loving others also means letting them love you for yourself, which means accepting that there are things about yourself that are lovable.  It is also about faeries.

This book is definitely worth reading. Let me know what you think …

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