First-time novelist Keith Donohue brings to life the legend of the “changeling” in his well-received novel The Stolen Child, the story of little Henry Day. A young boy who runs away from home and finds himself abducted by what appears to be a group of dirty children, he soon finds out that many of these “children” are hundreds of years old and were once human. Now they are known as hobgoblins or changelings, and they bide their time until they can switch places with a human child and enter the world once more. As Henry Day becomes a changeling (his name is changed as well, to Aniday), another changeling has taken his place and is being raised by Henry’s family as their own son.
The Stolen Child alternates chapters between Aniday and the new Henry Day, each boy facing his own set of challenges. Aniday struggles to forget his family and accept that he will be living among the changelings in the woods until his turn comes around to switch places with another human boy. The new Henry Day must remember to act like a human boy as he begins to remember his former human life, before he was abducted by the changelings.
Donohue tells an intriguing and unique story in The Stolen Child. Those readers interested in folklore and legends will especially like this take on an old fable. The story has a fairytale quality to it, yet it has the heft of realism as well; the new Henry Day faces the everyday challenges we all face, even though he is something other than human. The only target that Donohue doesn’t quite hit is that of characterization. It’s difficult to get to know both Henry and Aniday, probably because both of them come from or are thrust into such foreign lives. It would have been nice to have a bit more empathy for either (or preferably both) characters so that their fates were of more interest. As it is, both characters come across as interesting, but they never cross over and become real people.
If you’re looking to read something unique and different, you should definitely check out The Stolen Child. However, if you’re expecting to get swept up in the stories of two very real characters who find a place in your heart, you might be a little disappointed.