Image: Two boys with identical clothes, pale skin, and light brown hair face a shadowy hooded figure in a pile of brambles. Text: "The Oddmire, Book One: Changeling. William Ritter."

KidLit Book Review: The Oddmire, Book 1: Changeling by William Ritter


Synopsis

Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart, so he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. When they are thirteen years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave their sleepy town and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and uncover who they truly are.


Details

  • Title: The Oddmire, Book 1: Changeling
  • Series: The Oddmire, Book 1
  • Author/Illustrator: William Ritter
  • Cover Artist: William Ritter
  • Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
  • ISBN: 1616208392
  • Publication Date: July 16, 2019
  • For Ages: 8-12
  • Category: Middle Grade
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.

I’d like to thank Algonquin Young Readers for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.


Review

There’s so much to love about this first book in The Oddmire series that I’m not sure where to start. It’s full of humor, suspense, adventure, magic, and chills. The characters are sharply drawn and yet they continually surprise you. The book’s depiction of maternal love is warm and fierce, with an unexpected team-up that made my heart feel like it would burst. It is legitimately hilarious—there were so many laugh-out-loud moments that I lost count of them. It’s a spooky, magical adventure that you can’t put down, and I am so very glad that the second book is coming out next month.

I wrote recently that I wanted more changeling stories in children’s books, and author William Ritter delivers a terrific take on the subject. A goblin named Kull enters the quiet little town of Endsborough, “a no-nonsense sort of town that heard about notions like technology and progress and decided that they sounded exhausting.” When Kull gets to the home of Annie Burton, his goal is to steal her human baby and replace it with a goblin changeling so that he can enact an ancient ritual to bring magic back to the forest where he lives. When Kull tries to make the switch, though, he takes his eyes off the infants for a moment, and when he turns back around he realizes that he can’t tell which baby is goblin and which baby is human. Kull flees back to the Wild Wood empty-handed, leaving Annie two babies in the crib where she used to have just one.

Annie raises the boys as twins, initially hoping that the goblin mischief would become obvious in one of the two. When the boys turn out to be equally mischievous and it seems impossible to tell which one is human, Annie does what any good parent would do: she keeps raising the boys and loving them equally, just like she always has. I could spend this whole review just talking about how wonderful Annie is. She’s strong, brave, and kind; her love for her boys is so deep and pure that it brought tears to my eyes more than once. Annie (and the surprising partner that I mentioned earlier) reminded me a bit of Stella from the masterful Begone the Raggedy Witches. Both of them share Stella’s fierceness and tenacity in the face of parental weariness, but—just like Stella—they’re not defined solely by the fact that they have children.

The twins, Tinn and Cole, are fantastic characters as well. Near their thirteenth birthday, they receive a cryptic message from Kull that they have to enter the Wild Wood to save the goblins from the disappearing magic. Being adventurous, mischievous, and…well…human, the twins can’t resist the opportunity to venture into a forbidden forest, so they head out to face whatever is waiting for them in the Wild Wood. They still don’t know which one of them is the changeling, though, and there’s a moment when a new forest friend asks them individually how they feel about that. The parallels between their answers, with a few subtle differences that really highlight Ritter’s adept characterization, are both touching and heartbreaking. It’s one of my favorite moments in a book full of incredible scenes.

The Wild Wood is a treasure trove for fans of fairy tales, with pixies, witches, hinkypunks, and all other manner of supernatural creatures both friendly and fearful. This first book just scratches the surface of the magic that exists in the world of The Oddmire series, and the epilogue seems to promise much more magic in the second book (especially regarding Fable, one of my favorite characters). Like so many fairy tales, this story is fascinated with the nature of stories themselves and with questions like what it means to be a family and how to find out who you really are. It’s a thrilling, fascinating journey that takes unexpected twists but ends up exactly where it needs to be, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes next.


Rating

I wanted to fill this review with hilarious quotes from the book, but I had too many to choose from, so I decided just to let you read it for yourself. I give this book 5 out of 5 coffins.

5 Coffins


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