Changeling (The Oddmire, Book 1) by William Ritter

Changeling (The Oddmire, Book 1) by William Ritter (middle grade, Algonquin Young Readers, July 2019), is a story about magic, identity, and family love that's a beautiful read.  That being said, with conviction, there was one bit toward the end that left me feeling cross (spoiler down toward the end).

Annie Burton remembered giving birth to one baby boy.  But then a second baby boy, identical to the other, appeared in the cradle overnight.  A goblin, Kull, had brought a changling to her home, not from malice but in a last ditch effort to bring back the balance of magic to the world...but he got confused, and was forced to flee the house before he could figure out which was the human child he'd planned to take away to the magic half of the world, and which was the shapeshifting goblin baby.  Annie can't tell the difference either, and so she sets out to raise both boys, Cole and Tinn, like her own.  They are both her much loved children, getting into mischief and listening to tales of the dark magic in the woods surrounding their home town.

Then one day Kull leaves a letter for them to find, explaining that the changling child must return to the goblin horde or he will die, along with every creature in the dark woods.  There's a little map, showing the way.  Neither boy knows who the changling is, and they can't resist setting of to find answers.  So they venture into the woods, despite all the scary tales they've heard, and things go wrong pretty quickly.  Because the scary tales, are (mostly) true, and the Oddmire, the swampy heart of the woods, is deadly.  And at the heart of the woods is a dark shadow, that isn't in the tales, but which is the scariest thing of all.

Annie Burton sets of to find them, of course, because they are her boys, both of them.  She is one of the best mothers in middle grade fantasy ever, because her love is so beautiful unconditional.  And the boys love and loyalty to each other is also wonderful.  Other characters have their own family ties, poignant and heartfelt, giving the book a most lovely, warm heart.

I was all set to give it five stars on Goodreads, for this reason and because the adventures in the dark woods are exciting and intriguing in their own right, but the ending went wrong for me.  (spoiler alert)

A minor character, who had made a bad choice, seeks to redeem himself by standing up to the dark shadow beast, and appears to sacrifice himself in an act of self-immolation that I found very moving..  And when the fire burned out, he was no longer in the story, so I assumed he was dead, until he appeared again, pages later, just standing around with  other minor characters.  And I felt very cross and cheated that the emotional tension had been worked to such a fever pitch and it hadn't actually been warranted and the selfless act wasn't what I was led to belief it was, and was just dismissed by the author so dismissively the character didn't even get a real mention again.

humph.  So though there was lots I enjoyed, especially the mother's love for both her boys, I was left feeling a little grumpy....

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