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The Changeling Sea (1988)

by Patricia A. McKillip

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1253017,807 (4.1)65
A floor scrubber and a magician try to help a prince return to his home beneath the sea and help his half brother, a human trapped in the body of a sea monster, return to the land.
  1. 20
    Among Others by Jo Walton (Herenya)
    Herenya: Both stories have a heroine dealing with grief and the sometimes-loneliness of being 15.
  2. 00
    Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce (beyondthefourthwall)
  3. 00
    The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip (auldhouse)

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» See also 65 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
After her fisherman father's disappearance, Peri wants to curse the sea. Then she meets a icy prince who wants to enter the sea, an imprisoned monster who wants to escape the sea, and a young magician who may be able to give everyone what they most desire from the enigmatic, inhuman sea.

Despite its epic-sized premise, The Changeling Sea is kept firmly small-scale: Peri spends as much time at her job, mopping floors at the local inn, as she does communing with lost princes on the seashore. The intimate dimensions of the story is why I liked The Changeling Sea. Half of the novel is concerned with a tragic and melodramatic pair of princes, but that nearly ponderous weight is counter-balanced by the other half of the novel, where Peri does her small, human best to affect an indifferent tide of misery and destiny. ( )
  proustbot | Jun 19, 2023 |
A typical fantasy romance by McKillip. This is a very short novel, telling the story of a young lady, Periwinkle. Peri just lost her father to the sea and her mother is completely lost in her own head over it. Peri and her family live in a small fishing village on a small island. While hating the sea now, Peri keeps being drawn to it and when a mysterious, chained sea dragon appears, things get interesting. A light, well written fantasy romance, though the writing style is a bit subdued for McKillip. Still very worth reading. ( )
  Karlstar | Mar 4, 2023 |
This book could have been 5 stars if it wasn't for the ending.

The story is about a girl named Periwinkle, Peri for short, that works at an inn cleaning the floors with two other girls. Peri hates the sea ever since her father's fishing boat returned without him and her mother spends her days looking out the window and talking about a city below the sea. Feeling like she lost both parents, Peri uses the small magic she learned from a witch to hex the sea. There is a prince, a magician and sea creatures in this story that revolves around an inn, the sea, love and greed.

The writing is beautiful as always and the characters are great. I immediately got attached to Peri, who is 15 years old, and also liked her work colleagues that were surprisingly interesting despite being sort of minor characters. The prince was really interesting, the sea dragon was really sweet and funny and I also liked the magician.

I loved the plot of common people dealing with magical creatures that suddenly show up and how the fishermen and the workers at the inn are trying to deal with this situation by hiring a magician. I liked the commentary about greed around these characters too since they are after a gold chain that is on the neck of a sea creature.

The mystery around the king's son and his connection to the sea was really enjoyable and tragic and I really liked the moments between Peri and Kir.

This book really reads like a fairy tale and it doesn't have the dark moments present in "The Forgotten Beasts of Eld", but it still has some surprises and really strong characters and themes.

My only problem with this story was the last page. I really liked the implication of moving on, but I was not a fan of the execution. This happened especially because all of the time I was picturing a certain character as being really really old. So, you can imagine my shock at that scene even though that looking back didn't exactly came out of nowhere. I just hope that character is a minor too since I don't remember the age being mentioned or any of the physical descriptions.

I also thought a certain character that went missing at the start of the book would show up again and now I wonder if there are any hints about what actually happened early on in the text or if it was just left as a mystery.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book but that scene really caught me off guard.

Edit: A friend read this book recently and cleared up what was making me feel a bit uncomfortable. I still keep thinking about this book too so I am changing my rating to 5 stars instead of 4. ( )
  elderlingfae | Aug 11, 2022 |
Very poetic.

I like books that make my thoughts all quiet and almost still - like the calmest, the most gentle waves on the sea.

McKillip's sense of magic resonates strongly with my soul. No wonder she is one of my favourite authors.

I don't know that I would be very vocal in recommending this book.
I would, however, be quietly insistent (and persistent) that you give it a fair shot. It would be absolutely worth it.

To me, this book is very personal.
Not because of the events or emotions or people, no.
But because of the sense of magic and perceptions of the world woven into the story. Because it ties strongly into my own perceptions of magic - perceptions and ideas built long before I came across [b:Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy|19821|Riddle-Master The Complete Trilogy (Riddle-Master, #1-3)|Patricia A. McKillip|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1401387247s/19821.jpg|78273].

It's personal, and almost private. Because this book made me realise how exceptionally lucky I was to come across an author who whispers to my soul, and my heart. ( )
  QuirkyCat_13 | Jun 20, 2022 |

It’s telling that none of the characters know what they are doing. They all just fumble along, without a plan, without real insight in why they feel certain things or do certain things. It is telling that even the King doesn’t know how he called his lover from the sea. And even the sea queen is powerless to a certain extent, unable to withstand magic from a girl that doesn’t even know she possesses magic. It seems as McKillip tried to say: do not get distracted by other stuff, just do what’s natural and in front of you.

It is this theme of powerless stumbling that makes this a powerful novel, as an antidote against myths of meritocracy, or novels that call upon responsibility & duty. McKillip shows why being humble is the only realistic option if you want to live a moral life: hubris is always misguided. If you think you really know what you are doing, acting according your very own plans, you are probably delusional.


Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It ( )
  bormgans | May 19, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
The story inside is small, but potent, like a well-crafted spell. It makes perfect sense, but it's fairy tale sense, not reasonable sense.

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia A. McKillipprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bonhorst, IreneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flerova, ElenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reinert, KirkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan,MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Jean Karl
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No one really knew where Peri lived the year after the sea took her father and cast his boat, shrouded in a tangle of fishing net, like an empty shell back onto the beach.
Peri, working her mop desultorily, found herself daydreaming. Distant isles on the top of the world, past the glaciers and the icebergs, past the winter lands, past winter itself, gleamed like summer light in her head. Magical isles, where fruit was forever ripe and sweet, and the warm air smelled of roses. Lands deep in the sea, where entire cities were made of pearls, and men and women wore garments of fish scales that floated about them in soft, silvery clouds.
She felt him quiet against her. He turned slowly, shakily, on his knees to face her. He put his arms around her wearily, his hands twined in her hair, his chilled face against her face. He did not speak again; he held her until the tide roared around them, between them, forcing them to choose between land and sea, to go, or stay forever.
"Magic is like night, when you first encounter it."

"Night?" she said doubtfully. She skipped a beat with one oar and the Sea Urchin spun a half-circle.

"A vast black full of shapes ..." He trailed his fingers overboard and the Sea Urchin turned its bow toward the horizon again. "Slowly you learn to turn the dark into shapes, colors.... It's like a second dawn breaking over the world. You see something most people can't see and yet it seems as clear as the nose on your face. That there's nothing in the world that doesn't possess its share of magic. Even an empty shell, a lump of lead, an old dead leaf—you look at them and learn to see, and then to use, and after a while you can't remember ever seeing the world any other way."
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A floor scrubber and a magician try to help a prince return to his home beneath the sea and help his half brother, a human trapped in the body of a sea monster, return to the land.

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