Title: The Replacement
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Review: The town of Gentry is a quiet, insular place. Isolated from the woes that seem to befall other small towns, such as recessions, droughts or floods, Gentry thrives. But prosperity comes at a price, and those in the town all abide by the same unspoken rules; every few years, children disappear and are replaced. Most times, these replacements are weak and strange, and die quickly. Those that remain are singled out because of their otherness, and are the types of changelings that attract mobs, puritanical anger, and are burned.
Mackie Doyle has had to follow strict rules his entire life in order to avoid unwanted attention. Although deathly allergic to iron (even the smell of it in spilled blood) and unable to set foot on consecrated ground, Mackie is a changeling that has, by the love of his family, managed to pass for human. But Mackie knows that something has changed for the worse, as he grows weaker and increasingly sensitive to the iron around him. Mackie is dying, and when his sister Emma barters for medicine that could save her brother’s life, Mackie discovers that there is a hidden world beneath Gentry, filled with rotting, living dead creatures with jagged teeth and cruel beauty. This world has been taking children from the town for decades, and when one last little girl is taken, the baby sister of a girl in Mackie’s class, he must decide whether or not he will continue in the silent tradition of the people of Gentry, or to embrace his nature and win the girl back.
This debut novel from Brenna Yovanoff has a great deal of promise; I’ve only read one other changeling story told from the perspective of the changeling, and with a supportive family environment (the other book was The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue – a wonderful book), and the concept is delightfully unique. I loved Ms. Yovanoff’s writing as well, creating a morbid, macabre atmosphere for her dark fairy tale. I loved the idea of the insular town of Gentry, with its secrets and death things writhing beneath the surface, with a history of sacrifice and payments in blood.
That said, while I felt the writing was beautiful and the idea of the book solid, the execution of the novel was a bit lacking, with a patchwork plot and uneven storytelling. The pacing felt off, too, as I found my interest waning by the midway point of the book, as it takes far too long to really get to the central conflict of The Replacement(which in itself lacks some much needed intensity and direction). More than anything else, The Replacement felt more like a vignette of striking scenes and ideas, but lacked the cohesion that could have made the book truly excellent.
The saving grace for The Replacement lies with its characters. I absolutely loved the dynamic between Mackie and his sister Emma (there is a particular exchange between the siblings that made the book for me, but I won’t put it here for fear of spoilers). Mackie’s narration is also resonant, as a teen struggling for normalcy (and he’s pretty genuine as a teenage dude), but deciding to risk it all for those he cares for. I wasn’t crazy about Tate (and her interactions with Mackie were passionate, but kind of odd), and was disappointed that best friend Roswell didn’t get more of a role.
Overall, I enjoyed The Replacement and will definitely check out more work by Brenna Yovanoff.
Buy it here:
Kindle Edition: www.amazon.com