miriam newman ya lit ya literatureThe Moorchild is the story of a half-human/half-fairy changeling and the unrelated human family who unwittingly adopt her. Saaski’s an odd, difficult baby and a flighty child, forever running to the forbidden moor and refusing to do certain chores, like collecting rowan or anything to do with cold iron. Still, her family loves her – even her wise-woman grandmother, who figured out long ago what Saaski is – and life goes on apace, with chores and her grandfather’s bagpipes and generally avoiding the village children. Nonetheless, the freaky-odd child is a perfect scapegoat when things go wrong, and drastic measure must be taken, both by the frightened villagers and the equally-frightened Saaski.

A well-written and evenly-paced book, The Moorchild‘s great strengths are its characters caught in the middle. Though Saaski’s parents deny it at first, they know there’s something unusual about her, but they refuse to throw her out and, in fact, defend her staunchly against all comers – including Old Bess, Saaski’s mother’s mother and the village wise-woman. When Old Bess first knew that Saaski was not the human baby she delivered, she advocated trying to get the fairies to swap it back, though nearly all the methods for doing so involve putting the changeling in mortal peril – and, if she were wrong, killing the child. Even so, as Saaski grows, Old Bess becomes closer to her than anyone else, truly loving her and mentoring her, and quietly deals with the guilt of what she’d said when Saaski was a babe. And secondly there’s Saaski’s herself, neither fairy nor human, with the fecklessness and music of her fairy kin, but the love and loyalty of humans, as well. Saaski’s life in the village forces them all to walk a tightrope, and it’s done well.

If you think there’s only room in your life for one book of fairies and changelings, go read The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson. If, however, you have the sense to read as many such books as are good, go ahead and read them both.

The Moorchild