The Stolen Child gives a little fantasy to mainstream readers. Review by S.K. Slevinski

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In Print
In his debut novel, Keith Donohue makes a contribution to the growing canon of mainstream novels with a fantastical premise.

Henry Day is a child growing up in post-WWII America in a rural community in Western Pennsylvania. That is, until he finds himself the object of an ancient rite of forest magic. He is stolen by a group of changelings, and replaced in his home by one of their number. As Henry reels from the shock of being torn from his home, his double is faced with the task of winning over Henry's family and eliminating any suspicion of his true identity. The new Henry Day narrates a story of growing up in mid-twentieth century America, while continually haunted by the echoes of his past. The former Henry Day, now called Aniday by his changeling fellows, narrates his story of passing the years as a faery child, never growing up and always wondering about the family living and growing older without him. Can Aniday accept his new life and find a new home among the family of changelings? Can the new Henry Day find peace in finishing out a human life after leaving one so many years ago when he was taken by changelings as a German boy?

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On Audio
What makes this novel mainstream fiction with a dash of fantasy, and not the other way around, is the limiting of fantasy elements largely to the background. Fantasy is the setting, not the story. Rather, the story focuses on the more mundane aspects of these two characters' lives. While the fantastical is always in the background, and the magical history of these characters always motivates them, the forward thrust of this story is really an exploration of growing up and negotiating identity. I certainly applaud Donohue for telling such a character-centered story. This novel is, certainly, driven forward by the motivations and decisions of these two characters. Character-driven, however, doesn't necessarily mean terribly original. While certainly not your average coming-of-age story by mainstream or fantasy standards, the story isn't especially surprising. I wouldn't say that it is clichéd or predictable, but it's in no way extraordinary. This novel comes out somewhere in the middle.

All in all, this story is well-paced and it will be entertaining to both mainstream and fantasy readers. But if you're looking for characters that will challenge your thinking and keep you wondering at every turn, you won't find it here.

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S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.

Alternative Reality Web Zine: ISSN# 1559-3037

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