The Changeling Sea

ISBN: 0141312629
ISBN 13: 9780141312620
By: Patricia A. McKillip

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About this book

Since the day her father's fishing boat returned without him, Peri and her mother have mourned his loss. Her mother sinks into a deep depression and spends her days gazing out at the sea. Unable to control her anger and sadness any longer, Peri uses the small magic she knows to hex the sea. And suddenly into her drab life come the King's sons-changelings with strange ties to the underwater kingdom-a young magician, and, finally, love.

Reader's Thoughts


I honestly don't know how many times I've read this book. It is one of the sweetest, most wonderful novels I've every read in my life.When I had a series of very bad days this week, I turned to it to occupy my mind. Rereading this book always brings me peace; its charm and wonder remind me of my joy when I first discovered it. At the time, I was just 13, and I'd noticed McKillip's name for years, but all I'd seen was the Riddlemaster trilogy. While they looked good, they didn't look accessible to my 13 year-old self. But this one . . . this one drew my eye and I couldn't let go. The gorgeous Michael Whelan cover, featuring Peri in all her worn clothing and tangled hair, told a story that I wanted to know. At the time, I didn't understand the source for the tagline above the cover copy: "Something Rich and Strange." Even without knowing the source, it spoke to me.If you haven't read this book, don't let the Firebird rerelease cover scare you away. It's one of the best books I've ever read. Since its audience is a younger teen group, some might find it simple. But don't let that mislead you; it's a lovely story with incredible depth.

Rachel Neumeier

This book is perfect.If you know someone who says she doesn't like fantasy? Loan her this book.

Ian Mathers

I got this book years ago, and for some reason every time I'd try to read it I'd stall out after five minutes. I got it because the McKillip I'd read (the Riddle-Master series) are among my favourite books ever, so maybe some part of me was worried this one wouldn't measure up. Finally I grabbed it on impulse one morning where I didn't have anything to read on the train and maybe it was the lack of internet distractions but it grabbed me hard. I think I read it in three sittings, and I want to reread it right now. McKillip's prose is beautiful here as it was in that series, in the same unshowy kind of way; it's not filagreed to death so much as it displays a pretty nuanced, humane, wise kind of perception into people and the world (and magic). I kept thinking as I read it that I wished there was a Miyazaki adaption of it, or maybe just that it felt like there could have been (and without the kind of changes he made to Howl's Moving Castle, not that I don't love that movie as it is). That's the kind of tone it struck for me, the kind of nuance and warmth and beauty it has. Not one of his movies that are pitched to very young children, but I'd be perfectly content giving this book to a teen or pre-teen reader, and I think they'd enjoy it and get a lot out of it. And when they revisit it later in life, they'll find like I found that it's still a novel worth reading.


Beautifully, breathtakingly woven, as one would expect from Ms. McKillip. The characters are exquisitely fleshed-out and complex, mysterious and lovely, infused with emotions and heart expected of an everyday person, yet with just the barest hint of magic running its current beneath. The prose is absolutely spellbinding, and the conversations compelling, riddled with that simple, effortless, alluring ease that flows so naturally from the author's hand.May expand more on character thoughts later, but all in all, this was entirely lovely; a book I cherished and felt and swallowed every step of the way back to the sea and beyond, with eager eyes, fingers, and heart. (❧"What have you done?” she asked herself aloud. "What have you done?" She answered herself a few moments later. "I’ve gone and fallen in love with the sea.")


this was a great story. i love this author, she just has a certain style that brings whatever she says to another level. this said, the story isn’t perfect. the major relationships between the main character and those around her aren’t very strong, not strong enough anyways. at the end, not to spoil it, but she asks someone to come back for her, but the relationship between them wasn’t strong enough for her to ask that of him… or at least we the readers weren’t privy to it. they don’t have to be ridiculously close or anything, the perceived distance between the characters is fine, but the draw between characters must make sense to the reader. if the author spent more time fleshing out relationships i think the story would’ve been better, because the relationships are very compelling, we just know too little of them. peri says she enjoyed certain people’s company because they needed her. unless she is so weak and needy that someone recognizing her existence would make her go crazy, which i don’t think she was, there is a part of the story the readers don’t know about, or have to fabricate for themselves. so in a way it felt like she was grasping at straws, and the introductions of some characters, namely the workers at the inn, were kind of awkward. criticism aside, it was a wonderful story. the plot was well thought out and kept me interested. i thought the author did a great job of characterizing the sea. Kir was a great emphasis for this because he was half of the sea himself, so we had the sea both as itself and humanized in Kir. periwinkle was ok, not the strongest heroine but compelling in her own way. i liked her name though, periwinkle, you get few characters with such whimsical names. it was a great story though. it was short, i read it in a couple of hours, and it left me feeling kind of whimsical


This book came highly recommended, and I was prepared to really like it. When I started reading it, it reminded me of The Last Unicorn. As the story progressed, though, I found that it seemed to lack the depth that I was hoping it would have. It could have been really good, but I found myself unable to connect with any of the characters. I liked that Kir was so desperate to get into the sea, but he was also aloof and unreachable, and I found his relationship with Peri rather forced. What reason did he have to love her, or her him? It seemed to be convenient for the author for them to be in love, but the story didn't back it up, and because of that, any sense of loss that should have come at the end of the story was missing, and I found the end rather unsatisfying, since the whole book pointed to exactly what would happen (but not how) all along, and there weren't any surprises once we got there, except perhaps, for the magician's sudden attraction to Peri.


Reading Changeling Sea, I felt rewarded. Like someone walked up to me and handed me a glass of cold milk and a fresh warm cookie every once in a while. Just enough so you never got stuffed with cookies or gorged with milk. Sounds good, right?The story focuses on the plight of Peri. What I like about Peri is she is despondent so you know she isn't here to sell you anything in chipper tones. She's a realist and a doer. She starts out the book by waging war on the sea. Remember when I just said that she was a realist? You better believe it! As I said she is a doer.Suffice to say that her personal war against the sea leads to...incidents. Incidents of hilarity, awe, magic and despair. Sometimes all at same moment. This book might be short but it packs a punch. These were the cookies.It's also a really great example of how writers should use descriptive writing. I have never read a book filled with such wonderful descriptions that they both gave you a picture and conveyed the character's emotions as well. It wasn't just a laundry list of scenery then a laundry list of emotions tacked on separately. The two were interwoven. Each description told you how the character was feeling. When they talked you felt the timbre of their voices reverberating off the surroundings. When they looked you saw the through their eyes and the desire for that view, to have it or to change it. When they walked you felt the ground they tread upon and the strength of their gait. You get my drift I hope. It was that refreshing glass of cold milk.Changeling Sea is filled with scullery maids, fishers, boats, mermaids, rain, cold, princes, magicians, magic, sass, gold, periwinkles, a ring, a king, a queen, a dragon and the sea. What it doesn't seem to have is anything at all wrong with it. Except that now I am filled, with milk and cookies.


It's no secret that Patricia McKillip is a most beloved author for so many fantasy readers. I discovered her late in the game, when I ran across a beautiful reissued omnibus edition of The Riddle-master Trilogy in a Barnes & Noble several years ago. After finishing that excellent trilogy, I went looking for any other McKillip books I could get my hands on. The result was a binge, of sorts, in which I blew through six or seven titles without a by-your-leave. And it was an immensely good time. But it did result in a little bit of fatigue, as her writing style is very specific and lyrical and I wound up needing to cleanse my palate a little after. Since then I've re-read a few of my favorites here and there, particularly the Riddle-Master and The Book of Atrix Wolfe, but not since The Tower at Stony Wood's release have I picked up one of her new ones. While I was perusing the McKillip section on my shelves the other night, the slender little volume THE CHANGELING SEA caught my eye and I got to thinking it might be time to get back on the McKillip wagon. Originally published in 1988, this young adult fantasy has stood the test of time. Firebird put out the pretty little edition pictured on the right in 2003 and, having worked hard to find my own used copy, I was happy to see new life breathed into it. I also think it's the most accurate artistic representation of Peri herself and the spiraling, mesmerizing tone of the novel.Nobody ever really noticed Periwinkle. She and her small family have always been a bit on their own, quietly living out their lives in their sleepy fishing village. And then the year she turns fifteen, Peri is suddenly really and truly alone for the first time in her young life. It seems the sea has taken everything that she loves. First her father who drowned and now her mother who failed to get over her father's death to the point where she no longer talks to Peri at all. And so Peri spends her days working as a chamber maid, scrubbing floors at the local inn, and her nights trying desperately to curse the sea that's been the source of all her sorrow. Magic has always been a part of Peri's world, though it's never made itself known with quite such a presence as it does the day the King arrives in town with his son Prince Kir. The unhappy prince has a problem that plagues him, a problem he hopes Peri may be able to help him with. If she will just include something of his in her latest curse, perhaps the longing that rides him will abate. Neither of them expect the sea monster who rises as a result. A sea monster bound by a golden chain and from that point on, nothing is the same in Peri's life, and it is with gratitude she accepts the help of the wizard Lyo--a sort of local wise man. Between the four of them--the girl, the prince, the wizard, and the dragon--they piece together the mystery of what happened in that same place so many years ago and why it's rearing its ugly head now. I loved Peri instantly and without reserve. From the very first page, she is not your classic fairy tale heroine. The opening lines: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. She came home when she chose to, sat at her mother's hearth without talking, brooding sullenly at the small, quiet house with the glass floats her father had found, colored bubbles of light, still lying on the dusty windowsill, and the same crazy quilt he had slept under still on the bed, and the door open on quiet evenings to the same view of the village and the harbor with the fishing boats homing in on the incoming tide. Sometimes her mother would rouse herself and cook; sometimes Peri would eat, sometimes she wouldn't. She hated the vague, lost expression on her mother's face, her weary movements. Her hair had begun to gray; she never smiled, she never sang. The sea, it seemed to Peri, had taken her mother as well as her father, and left some stranger wandering despairingly among her cooking pots.She is not beautiful or poised or charming or sweet. But she is kind and determined and involved in unraveling the mystery from beginning to end. She earns the trust of the men around her before (if) she earns their love and we (and they) are frequently reminded of her flaws, from scraped knees to a nose on the large side. Urchin from top to bottom, it is most definitely what's inside that matters with this girl. And it matters quite a lot as so many come to depend on her, including the unusual and wondrous creature from the sea who is himself not exactly what he seems. As is always the case with a McKillip tale, the poetic language and gracefully interwoven magic lend a golden glow to the whole. At the same time, this is one of her more "real" stories. Peri is so real. Cloaked in the unreal and unbelievable elements around her, she remains focused and bright. Clocking in at a scant 144 pages, it is also a prime (and all-too- rare) example of a book I don't wish longer. It's perfect just as it is, especially the ending. The briefness only accentuates the sweetness and strangeness and I never fail to finish it at ease with my world and hers.


I was surprised by this book. I suppose its thinness and it's being billed as young adult made me lower my expectations a bit. But I'm on a mission to read all of McKillip's work, so I bought it this spring. This is a book of multiple troubled romances, including the romance of the sea. And this the first book of McKillips I've read in which I think she does romance well. As is common in McKillip's books (and fantasy in general), the young woman at the center of the book has magical power without realizing it. She ends up in the middle of an intersection of other powers. A powerful young mage arrives to solve what others see as the most obvious problem and ends up being the only one that sees all of the problems. I liked how his problem-solving involved a lot of guesswork. This strikes me as close to how problems, especially those on the edge of understanding, are actually solved. I also found his attempts to hint at his affection for the main character while she was awash in emotions for someone else quite charming. And that's how I would characterize the book overall: charming. Even the greed that grips the town seems more amusing than tragic. I'm sure I'll read it again some time when I feel like the world has lost its romance and I aim to put a smile.


This is the correct edition.The main character in this book is a rather poorly educated child, and that's only partly because of a breakdown in her family. The death of her father and what she believes to be the enchantment of her mother by her father's killer (the sea itself) do lead to a breakdown in nurturing. But there doesn't seem to be any organized schooling in the village. There are counting rhymes (used to teach speech to the sea dragon) and other learning techniques. There are even a few books. But there's no school depicted. The semi-orphaned Peri (who doesn't even know of the existence of the periwinkle flower, and was named after the marine snail) is drafted to work as a maid at the local inn, though she's still a child. She's adopted by a local wisewoman, before the woman's mysterious disappearance.What she learns from the wisewoman is put to inexpert use in a somewhat misguided attempt to undo all the enchantments of the sea, which has totally unexpected consequences. This is a charming book. McKillip is a master wordsmith. But to me, one of the main charms is the recognition that not all consequences are intentional. I tend to read the book at times when it's natural to blame the sea for ill events. I'm reading it now just in rotation, but I'll keep it on hand for the other use.


Haunting, beautifully written fantasy. I love the subtle, original twists on old legends and poetic language. This reads like an extended fairy tale with clever dialogue and unforgettable characters. I am so happy to have "discovered" Patricia McKillip--she's become one of my new favorite writers.

Amanda Kespohl

I'll do a more detailed review upon my second read, but I absolutely adored every word in this book. It was magical and haunting, but balanced with a sense of humility and humor that kept the deeper themes from being oppressive. I loved every character in this book, especially the main character. She was charming and realistic and relatable. And the romance in this book made me swoon. McKillip is one of my all-time favorite writers, and this book is probably my favorite book she's written (right up there with The Tower at Stony Wood and In the Forests of Serre, anyhow). Do yourself a favor and read it now!


Originally reviewed on The Book SmugglersIn a small fishing village on the coast of the wide, stormy sea, a bright-eyed young woman named Periwinkle makes her home. After her father, a fisherman, rows out his ship and never returns, Peri's mother lapses into quiet despair, forgetting to talk and always staring out at the roiling sea and fantasizing about the people that live in its depths. Without her parents to watch over her or remind her to do things like brush her hair or hem her clothes, Peri grows from a quiet child to a wild and somewhat neglected young woman - her hair always a tangle, her dresses bleached of all color, too tight in some places, too loose in others. Even the old wise woman who used to brush Peri's hair in her small cottage disappears one day, leaving Peri without anyone to care for her at all. During the day, she works at the local inn, scrubbing floors and cleaning rooms; by night, she returns to the old woman's cottage and makes her own isolated home where she plots her revenge against the sea. Hateful of the ocean that has taken both of her parents away, Peri crafts three crude hexes to curse the sea - it is here that she meets Prince Kir, who also knew the wise woman and years for her counsel. Kir has deep troubles of his own, also connected to the watery depths, and hopes that Peri can help him make his peace with the ocean that haunts his every waking moment. When Peri finishes her hexes and throws them deep into the great water, she also includes an offering from Kir - and to Peri's great astonishment, her hexes start to work. A great sea dragon starts to appear amongst the fishermen's boats on the sea, with an impossibly large gold chain around its neck. Then, a magician comes to town, promising that he will be able to remove the chain and give the gold to the villagers - for a price. And most importantly, Kir's dreams of the sea grow more fevered and frantic, as his own unknown, hidden past catches up to him. And it is all up to Periwinkle to set everything back to rights.To date, I've only read a handful of books and short stories from Patricia McKillip, mostly her recent releases. The Changeling Sea, however, is one of McKillip's earlier works, originally published in the 1980s and instantly endeared itself to me - a changeling fable that takes place by the stormy sea? What better place to jump into McKillip's rich and extensive backlist? And you know what? I absolutely loved this book. Shortly put: The Changeling Sea is another gorgeous, wonderful book from the incredibly talented McKillip.I'm going to say something that sounds incredibly cheesy, but it is so very true: Patricia McKillip has a way with words that is simply magical. Like The Bell at Sealey Head or The Bards of Bone Plain, The Changeling Sea is a slender book, but one written with lush and evocative prose that is as beautiful as it is simple. For example:A sigh, smelling of shrimp and seaweed, wafted over the water... In the deep waters beyond the stones, a great flaming sea-thing gazed back at her, big as a house or two, its mouth a strainer like the mouth of a baleen whale, its translucent fiery streamers coiling and uncoiling languorously in the warm waters. The brow fins over its wide eyes gave it a surprised expression. Around its neck, like a dog collar, was a massive chain of pure gold.Beautiful, no? Such is McKillip's writing, littered throughout with these gleaming gems of description and story. Love and anger are like land and sea: They meet at many different places.As the title suggests, The Changeling Sea is a fable about a changeling, and a story whose heart is inextricably tied to the sea. It's a book about love - no, scratch that. It's actually a book about yearning for what once was, and what can never be again. It's the book of a King that yearns for the beauty of the sea queen in all her splendor, the story of two brothers crossed at birth that yearn for their true homes on sea and on land. It's the story of a wild haired, barefooted fisherman's daughter that dares hex the spiteful sea, and yearns for the love of one that can never return it. Aren't these some of the best of all? These stories of want and hate and love, all jumbled up into one powerful package of emotion?And then there are the characters! Periwinkle, our heroine, is a pinched and angry character at first, who scowls at the ocean but refuses to leave its shores despite her hate. She's bold and wild, who cares little about the conventions that bind others - she doesn't have secret dreams of catching the prince's eye like the other girls who work at the inn, and she doesn't pay attention to her clothes or her hair. She's smart but rough around the edges, passionate but obstinate - and for all that, a character you cannot help but love, flaws and all. There is the tortured Kir, who is...well, defined by his yearning for the ocean and his feeling that he does not belong on dry land. There's also the sea dragon himself, who is not at all what he seems, and a king that has made mistakes in his past but loves his children and lovers dearly. But for all that, my other favorite character in this beautiful little book is Lyo - the canny magician, with his smiling face and his penchant for twisting magic in delightful, unexpected ways.All in all, I loved The Changeling Sea, and absolutely recommend it. I cannot wait to try more of Patricia McKillip's work - now, any suggestions on where to go next?


Il romanzo è molto datato — del 1988 — ma io adoro la penna elegantemente "vecchio stile" della McKillip. Come suggerito dal titolo originale — The Changeling Sea — la storia ruota intorno allo scambio di due bambini, uno dei quali venuto dalle profondità del mare e a questo legato indissolubilmente. È una vicenda semplice, in fin dei conti, pensata per un pubblico giovane, ma piena di belle suggestioni e scritta in modo talmente scorrevole che la si legge tutta d'un fiato. C'è una ragazza un po' selvaggia, che odia il mare per aver portato via suo padre. Ci sono prìncipi in cerca di sé stessi. Un re amato e odiato con un'intensità che non conosce tempo. Un drago incatenato fra le onde. Un giovane mago dal sorriso pronto, un mago vero, che cercherà di placare quel mare pieno di segreti. Tutti elementi classici del fantasy — è vero — ma raccontati e intrecciati con rara grazia.Insomma, una piacevolissima scoperta fatta in biblioteca. E un libro di cui comprerò una copia alla prima occasione.


I have read a number of books by McKillip in the past and enjoyed them. This book was no exception; the writing is beautiful and creates wonderful imagery, the story has a fairy tale feel to it. I absolutely loved reading it.Peri's father was lost to the sea last year and her mother is in a deep depression. Peri has taken to living in an old woman's abandoned house so that she doesn't have to face her mother's depression every day. One day Peri is so overcome by anger at the sea that she throws hexes into it and curses it. This ends up setting off a string of momentousness events. Now Peri finds herself drawn into the sad story of two princes and the curse that has affected them both.Like all of McKillip's stories this one is beautifully written. There is excellent imagery and creative characters that are very engaging and make the story really come alive.Peri is an intriguing character, she is a loner and angry at the sea. She sees things differently from those around her and this gives her an interesting perspective. The most intriguing character of the story was the magician that helps Peri deal with the two Princes. You can tell that the magician has a mysterious past and can do mysterious things. The two Princes are tough to relate to and kind of aloof because of the situations they are in, so they weren't my favorite. The plot has a very fairy tale feel to it. The way that there are curses on the two Princes and the way kingdom beneath the sea is tied to the kingdom Peri lives in is classic fairy tale. The story ends well and a bit ambiguously. As expected in a fairy tale story like this, not all ends happily but not all is horribly lost either.Overall I really enjoyed the beautiful writing and description and was drawn to the eerie fairy tale feel of the story. I wish that the Kingdom Underneath the Sea had been expanded on some, I also wish we had gotten more of a chance to delve into the magician's past. Still given how slim this book is, it packs an engaging and magical story with surprising depth. I will definitely continue to read McKillip and look forward to reading other books that she has written.

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