Changeling: Order of Darkness, Book 1

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Changeling: Order of Darkness, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Tantalizing mix of historical romance, supernatural epic.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens will learn about medieval rules of inheritance, including that a woman had no authority (or options) outside of marriage or the nunnery. Readers completely unfamiliar with the Catholic church and terminology will pick up some details about the church hierarchy, the kinds of vows that nuns and priests make (including the vow of celibacy), and how non-believers were considered heretics. The character Ishraq illuminates the many cultural and religious differences between a Western European Christian girl's upbringing and that of a Moorish Spanish young woman.

Positive Messages

Changeling has positive messages about the role of women in society and the idea of tolerance, even in an age dominated by one religion. Author Philippa Gregory also explores the tension between obligation to family duty and following your own path.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All four major characters are almost unbelievably forward-thinking for medieval times. Isolde and Ishraq are independent women who've been taught to think for themselves, even though they're beholden to the sexist norms of the day. Ishraq is trained in survival and fighting skills and can defend both herself and Isolde. Freize is a servant but isn't afraid to express his opinion. A true lover of animals, he takes care of the werewolf when no one else will.


Characters are burned, poisoned, tortured, and nearly killed by a mob, and two die -- one of poisoning, one by burning. Two characters are kept hostage and are told that they'll be executed. A mob converges on a creature they assume to be a werewolf, but before they can kill it, Luca intervenes. Isolde is nearly raped by a man who seeks her hand in marriage.


No kisses or love scenes, but sex and desire are referenced, and there are longing looks and brief chaste touches. After a man tries to force himself on Isolde, Ishraq leaves him with his genitals on display as proof of his disgraceful behavior. A nun makes vague allusions to the possibility that Isolde and Ishraq are more than friends. Through a window, Luca sees Ishraq and Isolde bathing from a short distance and admits that he's "burning up with desire" for her. Ishraq tells Isolde that she and Luca obviously want each other. Freize flirts with many women but really puts the moves on Ishraq. Two characters are revealed to be secret lovers.


Infrequent use of "s--t" and "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People -- presumably of age in that era -- drink wine at meals.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Changeling is the first young adult novel by best-selling historical romance author Phillipa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl). There are many references to Catholicism and the sacred vows observed by priests, nuns, and other religious officials. Because it takes place in the 15th century, much is made about the limited roles for women. There's some violence (characters are burned, poisoned, tortured, and nearly killed by a mob), but most of it stops just shy of an actual death. Sexuality is limited to mentions of impropriety and an affair and several longing looks between characters who are forbidden to act on their desires. A young man flirts with several women, and a young priest accidentally sees (from afar) two beautiful women taking a bath. Teens will have plenty to discuss, particularly about gender politics.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Kid, 11 years old June 20, 2014

Nice read

This book was a nice read.
Violence was a concern.
And with an attempted rape(That her brother approves of if I am not mistaken) was a little on the not so grea... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMiyagrego September 6, 2015
I think this book is amazing you can get right into it straight away

What's the story?

It's 1453 Italy, and gorgeous 17-year-old novitiate Luca Vero is accused of heresy for using logic. As punishment for his crime, Luca (who is rumored to be a changeling because he's so much cleverer and more beautiful than his thought-to-be barren parents) must join a secret order to investigate possible demonic activity across the papal realm. Along with his faithful and funny squire, Frieze, and a by-the-book clerk, Vero goes to an abbey where strange things are happening. The abbess turns out to be the lovely, grieving Isolde, who only agreed to be named head of the nunnery because the abbey sits on her family's property -- land she thought she would inherit upon her father's death. While exploring the seemingly possessed behavior of the abbey's nuns, Luca begins to wonder whether Isolde and her non-believer attendant, Ishraq, are actually witches, as one of the other nuns suggests.

Is it any good?

Unlike Philippa Gregory's thick tomes for adults, Changeling feels light -- too light. Best known for her sweeping historical romances The Other Boleyn Girl and The Red Queen, Gregory tries her hand at the young adult genre here. As in her other novels, there's plenty of intrigue, many class issues, and the beginnings of an epic romance here. Despite the many (often heavy) religious references -- mostly to Catholicism but also to Islam -- teens will be able to follow Gregory's flowing plot thanks to her progressive characters.

But teenagers are more than capable of reading 300-plus pages (just ask J.K. Rowling's fans); this one could have gone on longer but instead offers an abrupt ending. Isolde and Luca might be the main protagonists, but as is often the case, it's the two sidekicks, Frieze and Ishraq, who are more interesting (and get the best lines). Ishraq is more likely to pull a sword on a man than flirt with him, and Frieze is an amusing combination of verbose bravado and quiet tenderness (especially toward animals). Luca, although clearly handsome and brilliant, is almost unlikable at times, and it's a shame that Gregory didn't further explore the titular idea that he's indeed of fairy blood. Still, this is a fascinating page-turner, leaving readers hopeful for a heftier second installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how, in the 15th century, gender, class, and religion determined people's abililty to make their own choices. How are all the main characters bound by the status society imposes on them?

  • How is religion portrayed in Changeling? Which characters seem to have a positive, life-affirming relationship with their faith, and which ones are just pretending?

  • Is the changeling/supernatural backstory necessary, or would the story have worked just as well without it? Why are supernatural stories so popular in the young adult genre?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and romance

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate