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

Paola (A Novel Idea)

Originally posted at A Novel Idea ReviewsRating: 3/5When Peri’s fisherman father was lost at sea, she found herself bereaved of both parents. Now her mother does nothing but stare out the window at the breaking waves, and Peri goes to her work at the local inn to scrub floors, blaming the sea for everything that has gone wrong in her life. Having learned some small magic from an old woman who once lived not far from her own cottage, Peri puts together a few awkward hexes and hurls them into the water, aiming to curse the ocean that stole so much from her. Little does she know that her mother’s fairytales about a land under the sea could be real, and she never once expected to meet a Prince, a King, a magician, a fire dragon, and a mermaid all in one summer…This book was a nice, short read with an interesting story. Peri’s relationship with Prince Kir, however, kind of baffled me. Supposedly they fell in love and all, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint just where that happened, or how. When I think harder about it, I guess Peri and Kir symbolized a love for the sea, which is forever changing and yet always there. And while I couldn’t understand how they fell in love in the first place, some of the best lines in the book where from Kir to Peri:(view spoiler)[ “I’m lucky,” she said, and heard her voice tremble. “Why?” “That you are only half like your mother,” she whispered. “Because it would be very hard to say no to the sea.” “Yes,” he said huskily. “You are lucky. Because I would rise out of the tide bringing you coral and black pearls, and I would not rest until I had your heart, and that I would carry away with me back into the sea, and leave you, like me, standing on a barren shore, crying for what the sea possessed, and with no way but one to get it.”Or from Peri to Kir, even: “Be happy now,” she whispered, aware of all the shining waves behind him reaching toward him, withdrawing, beckoning again. She added, feeling the pain again in her throat, “When I’m old—older than the old woman who taught me to make the hexes—come for me then.” “I will.” “Promise me. That you will bring me black pearls and sing me into the sea when I am old.” “I promise.”(hide spoiler)]And even though I think Kir was kind of a jerk, I guess I can’t blame him. His heart belonged in the sea. Only when or if Peri could become a part of that sea could they really belong together.Sigh. Well, good book, though!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


This is a gorgeous, bittersweet, perfect, completely unsatisfying story. It's a fairytale that feels real. All of those things at once? Yes. I didn't like the other book by this author I've read nearly as much -- perhaps not at all, I can't remember. But this is lovely. It's a story about longing, really, longing and love. It spellbound me, and managed to capture something I love about the sea: its beauty, humans' fascination with it, its danger... Dar Williams' The Ocean comes to mind here, somewhat.It's not really a story tied together by plot, but by emotion, and Kir's longing, Peri's love and hope, the king's sadness, it all got to me. The book is short, but I'll be thinking about it for a while. Another comparison that comes to mind is Susan Cooper's Seaward.


A very good, short story. Almost like a childhood fairy-tale. It reminded me of 'The Little Mermaid' a bit, same kind of atmosphere but the ending was sadder in the original Andersen's version. Patricia A. McKillip leaves us with a new hope for the main characters. It is my first book by this author... I wonder how will I like the others.


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!


SO GOOD. I loved it. The feels man.


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.


This short novel is lyrical and gripping, as the story of two princes, one bound to land but longing for the sea, and one bound to the sea but longing for land, and the ordinary girl (Periwinkle) who befriends both. Beautifully written and highly recommended!


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"]>


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.


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.")


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


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.

Rachel Neumeier

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


I love how tangible the setting is.


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.

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