Unknown to ordinary mortals, there are at least two New Yorks, which share geography,but not reality. Changeling is mostly set in New York Between, and Neef is the Changeling of the title, and lives in the Otherworld of New York Between. More specifically, she lives in Manhattan’s Central Park, under the guardianship of her fairy godmother Astris the White Rat, and her fairy godfather, the shapeshifting Pouka, and the protection of the genius loci, or Genius of Central Park, The Green Lady.
Neef, while saturated with Fairy lore and Fairy cultural influences, is also a mortal on the edge of puberty, with prepubescent curiosity. She manages, unknowingly but not completely blamelessly, to violate her personal geas, or taboo, breaking Fairy law, and is banished by the Green Lady from her Otherworld home in Central Park, and designated as prey of the Wild hunt. But with help from her friends, among them her changeling counterpart in the mortal world, the Otherworldly Curator of the Metropolitan Museum and several residents of the permanent exhibits, Neef manages to talk the Green Lady into a bargain; she can return to her home, stay in Central Park with the protection of the Green Lady — in exchange for obtaining three impossible to obtain objects for the Lady. Changeling is thus not just a fairy tale, it’s a tale with a quest at its heart. I’m not going to say anymore than that about the plot, except that Sherman knows the lore, the laws, and the games of Fairy exceedingly well, and she knows just how far to bend and stretch and rearrange them, no easy task for any story teller, mortal or other.
Two very distinct pleasures, out of the several offered to the reader in this book, are Sherman’s very obvious love for, and knowledge of New York City; it’s every bit as real an Otherworld as Tír nan óc, and her wide-ranging knowledge of, and appropriate use of fairy tale, myth, folklore, urban legend, and fictional character.
I wish I could have read Changeling when I was nine or ten; as much as I like it now, I would have loved it even more then. I read this as an ARC, but the official publication date is August 17, 2006; perfect for early holiday shopping for the ten year old in all of us.