"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Stolen Child

TITLE: The Stolen Child
AUTHOR: Keith Donohue

This book started a bit slow for me, with what is basically an infodump, but it didn't take long for the narrative to snare me in its web. There are two, alternating povs, a hobgoblin who has become a changeling by taking the life of a child stolen away, and the child, Henry Day, now named Aniday, who has been turned into a never-aging hobgoblin living in hiding in the forest. The book moves from 1949 through the '70s, following the life of the new Henry who struggles with emerging memories of his own human life a century ago while trying to maintain his new identity, shifting his body as Henry would naturally age, wondering if the hobgoblins will come to snatch him back as he rediscovers the humanity that once had been his. Meanwhile, Aniday must adjust to his new life, maturing mentally while stuck in a misshapen, unaging body while his memories of his past life slowly fade.

Over the years, "Henry" and Aniday form relationships in their new lives. Henry falls in love. Aniday grows fond of spec, a female hobgoblin. But lurking in the background is the feeling that something is wrong, and they aren't truly comfortable with what they are. Aniday longs to return to his old life even as he forgets it. Henry seeks his humanity in music, a talent he had in his old, first human life. A chance encounter sets the two of them on a collision path.

I won't say more about the story. I wouldn't want to take the wonder away. This is a truly magical book, filled with all manner of emotion from joy to despair, exploring what it means to be human along with the goals we set for ourselves, our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our loved ones. This simple, beautifully told story and its vivid characters will stay with me a long time.