Harvest Reviews

Publishers Weekly, 16 April 2007

Warren Rochelle

Golden Gryphon, $24.95 (313p) ISBN 978-1-930846-46-3

Rochelle (The Wild Boy) delivers an excellent traditional fantasy that draws on centuries-old Celtic fairy lore. Fairies, notably infertile among their own, have long interbred with humans, often leaving behind orphaned or abandoned children who never fit in and who develop magical powers and magical vulnerabilities, seeking self-knowledge as they evade their enemies, the evil Fomorii. A crisis is brewing. Librarian Ben Tyson, who lives in Garner, N.C., is concerned about his son, Malachi, whose late mother was fey. Like other half-fairy children, Malachi must heed a strange destiny. The book’s strength lies in the sensitive characterizations and the texture of its contemporary reality. Some Wiccans may be upset by depictions of black witchcraft (though Rochelle is clearly aware of white witchcraft), but otherwise this should be a book with wide appeal, as it touches so sensitively on basic emotions, recognizable by anyone who remembers childhood. (May)

Library Journal, 15 May 2007
Rochelle, Warren. Harvest of Changelings. Golden Gryphon, dist. by Independent Pubs.Group. May 2007. c.313p. ISBN 978-1-930846-46-3. $24.95.
FANTASY

Ten years ago, librarian Ben Tyson fell in love with and married a Sidhe woman who bore him a son before her unexpected death. Now his son’s fae powers have manifested themselves, and the boy dreams of reunion with three other children who share his heritage. Ben’s love for his son must lead him to the gateway to the world of Faerie before he is trapped by his enemies. Themes of love and loyalty as well as the acceptance of differences underlie the action without detracting from the story’s unfolding. A good choice for adult and YA fantasy collections.

SF Site: A review by Kilian Melloy

Let me say right off that I don’t like fantasy, and never did. I was the kind of kid who yawned at The Lord of the Rings and thought that tales about fairies, elves, kings, and kingdoms couldn’t hold a candle to even the lousiest pulp sci-fi story.

Over the years, however, the occasional fantasy story has gotten past my armor of prejudice and even staved off the boredom that I have always associated with fantasy. They tend to be works in which the fantastical elements work hand in hand with science as we know it, and that manage to combine the hallmarks of fantasy — magical animals, gods and goddesses, wizards, spells — with the contemporary world, the mundane world in which magic not only in regarded as nonexistent but as something radical and dangerous.

Warren Rochelle’s novel Harvest of Changelings fits the bill handsomely. Mostly set in North Carolina in 1992, Harvest of Changelings features everything that makes fantasy a potentially great genre: epic struggles between good and evil; a blend of realism and magic; an enchanted view of the various fantastical species that dwell in realms other than our own, and sometimes trespass here softly or in malicious, murderous force.The novel starts with widower Ben Tyson meeting a (literally) enchanting woman of great beauty and charm — glamour, one might say — named Valeria. After a period of courtship, Valeria proposes marriage to the thunderstruck Ben, who can’t believe his good fortune. Marriage and parenthood bring with them a certain transparency, which means that Ben becomes privy to Valeria’s secret: she is a leading figure among the Faerie, a human-like species from a parallel universe in which magic is not only possible, but is part and parcel of everyday life.Valeria’s magic also works here in our universe, which has its up-sides (she can place protective spells around the house and decorate using magical sparkles), but which entails certain dangers, too. More dangerous than anything else is the fact that if Faeries can cross into our world and still use their special abilities, so can their mortal enemies, the corrupted Fomorii, denizens of a recklessly polluted realm who have been at war with the Faeries for aeons.Though a truce exists between the Faeries and the Fomorii, the evil aggressors have no scruples about cheating on the treaty and building up their armies; they also take Valeria’s presence on Earth as an invitation to assassinate a crucial figure among the Faerie leadership. As it turns out, Valeria is the “Prime Mover” of the Faeries.Valeria’s death — on the very eve of her return to her native realm — leaves Ben in a difficult position. He is now the single father of a half-Faerie infant, whose magical powers are destined to manifest themselves in time — and whose enemies will doubtless be back.But neither Ben nor his son Malachi are alone in this world. Ben’s best friend Jack has heard all about Valeria, and Faerie, and the dangers that young Malachi will face; and, when they need him most, Ben and Jack find an ally in a half-Faerie Catholic priest whose faith exists in powerful harmony with his magical ability.As for Malachi, as he enters puberty — early for a human, at age ten — his special powers begin to emerge. But the eldritch powers of the Faerie back in their own native universe exert a pull on event and circumstance here: Malachi’s unknown lifemates — the other three destined to form his “tetrad,” a four-way marriage — are drawn together in Malachi’s home town. Like Malachi, they come from broken human families, but dream of their true home in another reality.Russell is the fiery one, the son of an abusive man whose wife has fled him. Scarred by beatings and fighting off a human-inflicted shame regarding his sexual orientation, Russell is on the verge of sliding into the darkness of his own nature and embracing evil.Jeffrey, slightly younger than the others, has endured heartbreaking abuse at the hands of his own father. Like Russell, Jeffrey has lost his mother, and seen his father sink into a savagery born of despair; and like Russell, Jeffrey bears the scars, physical and emotional, of searing abuse. But Jeffrey also possesses a certain resilience, perhaps partly because of his elemental association with water.

Hazel rounds out the quartet. She’s an orphan being raised by her neglectful grandparents, who seeks escape into a computer game that becomes, thanks to her magic, all too real, serving as a portal into the magical land that Russell and Jeffrey can enter only through dreams.

But even as the children find one another and establish their interpersonal bond, the Fomorii have targeted them for subornment and destruction. Their human ally, a black witch named Thomas — who happens to be Jack’s son — is their instrument on Earth, and as he lays his plans to discredit Ben and steal Malachi and the other children, Thomas thinks only of the reward he seeks: to be an evil, all-devouring King over the remnants of civilization once the Fomorii have overrun and conquered Earth.

Rochelle constructs his story along logical lines as well as narrative ley-lines of myth and psychological necessity. In his telling, the approach of Samhain — a powerful time when the doors between worlds can be opened and crossings made — brings madness to Earth: dragons and other flying creatures of legend, werewolves, supernal events, mystical forces unleashed that wreak havoc. The world is in a panic (and President George Bush blames sunspots for it all).

Ben, Jack, and the young half-Faerie children progress toward their confrontation with Thomas and his assembled forces of evil with a grim narrative deliberation: Rochelle has plotted it all out so meticulously that as events unfold, they seem inevitable and correct.

They also seem terrifying, whether Rochelle is describing a character’s inner struggles or the predators that overrun the earth by air, sea, and land: monsters swarming from a swamp, for example, a detail we hear about from a newscast but don’t witness. Such global chaos makes the attacks that Rochelle’s protagonists survive seem proper and contextualized, rather than out of place and absurd.

The only critical nitpicks to be offered here arise from the book’s style of presentation, which is part third-person objective, part first-person journal entry, and part documentary (news clips and the like). The story seems pieced together from fragments that sometimes do not quite join up; events that seem too major to leave out of the narrative flow are thus rendered down to passing references or left for the reader to surmise.

The most pressing of the unanswered questions is where, exactly, Russell, Jeffrey, and Hazel came from. Malachi is not a “changeling” in the classical sense of the word, not having been left by his faerie parents in a secret exchange for a stolen human baby. So what about the others? How did they come to live with human parents — or are they, like Malachi, half-human offspring of their earthly fathers?

We aren’t told. We do hear a few intriguing things that might work to tease us in case a sequel is on the way; perhaps more in-depth exploration of the characters’ origins is meant to be part of some follow-up volume, but that seems like an unnecessary goad to entice us. The quality of the writing is quite enough to convince readers of Harvest of Changelings to pick up any sequels that might come along later.

These minor flaws are compensated for richly by the book’s compassionate understanding of what it is that makes fantasy — and fairy tales — so compelling. In this story, as in others of its ilk, it’s the outcast or the stranger who is the hero. Whether it’s because of a sensitive temperament, or a different sexuality, or an outstanding talent, the best fantasy books address human diversity and human potential as part of the central metaphor.

Rochelle understands this instinctively, and his book is vibrantly constructed along exactly those lines, which makes this novel about flying children, otherworldly realms, and magical chaos seem, despite it all, relevant and down to earth.

Copyright © 2007 Kilian Melloy

Kilian Melloy serves as Assistant Arts Editor for EDGE Publications, reviewing film and books and interviewing fascinating artistic people. He also occasionally contributes to this and other online publications.

Linear Reflections & City Magazine August 2007
By Naomi De Bruyn

I’d been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first caught wind of it. The idea of half-elven children in our midst isn’t a new one, but it is fascinating, but with Warren’s exceptional skill the premise broadens into a tale that is a delectable feast for the imagination.

Ben Tyson was, and still is, a librarian. The love of his life and mother of their son, was a Daoine-Sidhe named Valeria. She perished leaving Ben to raise their son Malachi. Malachi is a changeling undergoing puberty, Fairy style. It’s not easy on either of them, and there is a deadly added problem. There is evil out to eradicate Malachi, the Fomorii.

Ben knows a great deal, but not everything. Malachi will form a tetrad with three other children. The elements will all be represented – Fire, Air, Earth and Water. There is a gate that will open on Hallowe’en, and they must pass through it or the fey powers that Malachi is beginning to have, will kill him.

This sounds much easier than it is. Ben has no idea where the gate is. Nor does he know where the rest of the children are that Malachi is dreaming about. Add in the fact that the world seems to be being overrun by creatures from the fantasy realms, and not all of them are nice, and Ben’s got a very full plate. Hallowe’en is coming up fast, and the path is blocked at every turn.

The age old battle of good against evil has its lines drawn solidly, and either side could easily win. The majority of the outcome weighs heavily on the shoulders of the young changeling, as his powers begin to do the deed for the Fomorii, slowly killing him as they grow in intensity. The young changeling needs the help of the tetrad and his own people, but will it all come together too late to save him?

Warren has created very solid characters with an incredible, yet still very believable, story line. The tale flows like bubbly champagne, leaving the reader giddy with suspense and craving more, more, MORE!

Review of Harvest of Changelings by Warren Rochelle

posted November 21, 2010 – 8:56pm
on Xomba

Review of Harvest of Changelings by Warren Rochelle

I must admit, I’m not a big fan of fantasy novels.  It just isn’t a genre that appeals to me with its magical lands people with elves and fairies and all that sort of thing.  The fantasy novels I do enjoy tend to involve fantastical elements invading our world, starting out with a grounding of reality before layering the otherworldly over it.  Neil Gaiman is a master of this type of story.

When I sat down to read Warren Rochelle’s Golden Gryphon Press novel, Harvest of Changelings, with its depiction of pointy-eared fairy children on the cover, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I went into it with an open mind but a little trepidation.

Trepidation that dissipated like smoke before I was even through the prologue.  Rochelle draws the reader in with a touching love story that takes a tragic turn, laying the groundwork for a larger story of good versus evil, worlds hanging in the balance.

The main story involves four children—Malachi, Russell, Jeff, and Hazel—who discover that they are part-fairy, powers like levitation and telekinesis emerging and altering the course of the lives.  The story takes some time to explore the children separately as they all deal with these new abilities, then the four come together, discovering they are more powerful as a unit—a tetrad—and share a common destiny.

Meanwhile, there are dark forces at work that want to separate the children, who want to use their power for nefarious purposes.  A war is waging in the land of Faerie and the children are being called back to this land they have dreamed of, but the dark forces—called the Fomorii—are trying to prevent that.  The book builds to an exciting race to get to the doorway between worlds in time to save the world from falling into eternal darkness.

The plot is complex without being confusing, and the cast of characters large without being unwieldy.  The true strength of the novel, however, is in the characterization.  Rochelle creates characters so three-dimensional that they practically live and breathe, blazing off the page with life and depth.  The reader becomes so invested in these people that he will follow them anywhere.  It is a testament to Rochelle’s understanding of human nature that he does this not just for the protagonists, but the main villain of the piece is just as fully formed and complex as anyone else.  His behavior is amoral and appalling, and yet he is given enough dimensions that the reader can understand how he became as he is.

Rochelle does a stellar job of making the reader believe in the reality of the story, including the more fantastical elements.  The pace gradually builds until it rockets toward the climax, reaching a satisfying conclusion while leaving the door open for a sequel (which Rochelle has just released).

Harvest of Changelings is an impressive novel that captured my imagination in the way only the most powerful fiction can.  It was an exhilarating ride that has left me excited to read more by Rochelle.  If you are a fan of fantasy, you are going to love this novel.  If you are not a fan of fantasy, this just may be the book that changes your mind.

Reviewed by Mark Gunnells

http://www.xomba.com/review_harvest_changelings_warren_rochelle