The Changeling Sea

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

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Fantasy Favorites Fiction High Fantasy Magic Mermaids Romance To Read Ya Young Adult

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 love how tangible the setting is.


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.


Absolutely lovely old-school McKillip. I enjoyed the delicate touch with the magic and the girls' friendships at the inn and that the king took responsibility for the ending and many other things!


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.

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.

Rachel Brown

Peri, a young woman whose fisherman father drowned, casts a spellagainst the sea, calling forth a monster… and a Prince.A magical, moving, and completely original story, peopled with quirkilycharming characters. Unlike most fantasy novels, this isn’t aboutwielding swords and spells to save the world, but about the power andwonder of both magic and human relationships. Peri is a likable,offbeat heroine, and the choice she makes regarding the three men whocome into her life, the magician, the prince, and the sea dragon, isbelievable and heartwarming.All the characters, even the most minor ones, have their own lives andagendas, bringing to life the vividly imagined setting of a fishingvillage on the edge of enchantment. Dialogue is sometimes poetic,sometimes funny, but always well-phrased. The balance in this bookbetween the little moments of daily life and the beauty of magic andfeeling reminded me of books like The Secret Garden.It's one Patricia McKillip's more obscure novels, but also one of herbest.


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 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.


Wonderful story. So glad I finally managed to pick it up! <3


This was a nice little dip into the fairytale pool. I was looking for a quick and light read and, while The Changeling Sea offered more depth than I was expecting, it was still a nice surprise.The book opens with Peri, the main character, dealing with the loss of her fisherman father at sea, and her mother's subsequent check out from reality. Though only 15, Peri works as a maid at the local inn, and while she continues to show up for work every day, her evenings are spent in her own type of retreat from reality. Lost in her own feelings of anger and sadness and unable to deal with her mother, Peri stops caring about her physical appearance and stops going home after work. Instead, she moves into a cottage on the beach outside of town and it is here that she meets the equally troubled Prince Kir. Both Kir and Peri feel detached from their roles and the people in their life, and for different reasons both blame the sea. Because of this, these two lost souls form a bond, and it is from these seeds our fairytale is born. When Peri tries to curse the sea for taking her father's life and her mother's sense of purpose, a series of events is set in motion, each more magical and farfetched than the last.What starts as a very real and relatable tale of dealing with loss, grows into an unreal and magical story that reminds us that sometimes bad things happen for no explainable reason at all, but that doesn't mean there isn't wonder and joy in the world.


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?

Rachel Neumeier

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


The really great thing about this book is that it was written so long ago (1990) and it reads so quickly that the writing doesn't seem to have aged at all. I contrast this writing with Song in the Silence, by Elizabeth Kerner (1996), which came highly recommended, but the narrative was so full of boring prose -- of the sort that seems old-fashioned to me, but it may just be a writing style. (view spoiler)[In the book, a short story is told about a king who fell in love with someone of the sea (not explained -- you are to assume that it's a mermaid or the queen of the sea, but no fins or tails are ever mentioned, only pearls and shells in the hair) and had a son by her, and then had a son with his young wife of obligation. The queen of the sea loved the king but was angry at him, so took his human son with her into the sea and gave him her inhuman son of the sea.So, in the beginning, when Peri meets Kir, the king's son, that's when the book opens up. In general, the book ends on a much better note than how it started. Peri is angry and grieving when she hexes the sea. She meets Kir, the king's son, who longs to be a part of the sea but it refuses to let him in. Meanwhile, a sea-dragon with a humongous chain of gold starts to peer at the fishers from the ocean. A magician called Lyo comes into the picture at the behest of the town to bring back the gold chain (it was very tempting to the villagers). Somehow the sea-dragon begins to drag itself out of the sea and visits Peri in the form of a human for several hours a night -- it was the king's human son who had been under an enchantment.It's quite a lovely story, and at the beginning Peri and Kir start having feelings for each other -- but the feelings they have for each other are criticized by other reviewers as being not developed or romantic -- but that was really the way it was supposed to be. They don't know each other that well, and Kir was a really tortured soul. He seemed to be connected to Peri only because he saw in her something apart from the villagers. Although that was quite odd, because she hated the sea so much, so why would he want her to take a message to the sea on his behalf?? Their "romance" doesn't seem much of a romance, and I much preferred Lyo to him, or even the sea-dragon, who never had to fear anything in his inhuman shape. In the end, Kir elects to leave his land-home and go into the sea (and it turns out that Peri is quite the magician, because her few words are able to prevent things from happening or spur things on), and the sea-dragon walks out of the sea as a human. The king meets with his old-time lover (not a really exciting scene), and then Lyo comes to see Peri and reveals shyly that he had always been fond of her, but she had always had princes around her. The End.(hide spoiler)]All in all, it was an interesting story, but it was weird that Peri was in the midst of all this. Why her? I guess maybe because she was supposed to be magical? The characters were not developed that well for me, probably because Kir took up such a large portion of the story, but he turns out to be the least likable part.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

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!


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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