NESFA Members' Reviews

The Changeling Sea

by Patricia A. McKillip

Firebird, 2003 [1988], ISBN 0-14-131262-9

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This is a very short book, barely more than a novella, from a few years ago. About a year prior to the start of the story, a fisherman was swept off his boat and lost in rough seas. The boat was recovered, but he wasn't. His wife has been going through the motions, barely aware of the world around her, since then, and their daughter, Peri, feels that she's lost both her parents. She's been working at the inn in the village, where the innkeeper, concerned that she seems neglected, gives her food to take home and keeps a protective eye on her. And instead of going to her own home, she's been living in the cottage of an old woman she used to visit, who has also vanished.

But before the old woman vanished, she had taught Peri a little bit about magic and hexes--not that any of the magic ever seemed to work, but it was something to do. And one day, in her anger and grief at what the sea has taken from her, Peri decides to hex the sea, to confuse its magic and unbind all its spells. And when, with the king's court having arrived early for its annual summer visit to the area, she finds the king's son half-drowned on the beach, he asks her to also deliver, along with her hex, a message to the sea, where his true mother is. He is, it seems, a changeling, and he can't be happy on land but is unable to return to the sea.

Very quickly, Peri finds herself dealing with two changeling royal sons, a sea dragon, magicians, and gold-obsessed fishermen. It's a very entertaining story, and very well done.

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