The Changeling

by Rosemary Sutcliff

Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach

The Changeling by Rosemary Sutcliff The Changeling is set in ancient Britain, where a small tribal group known as the Epidii lives along "the flat coastwise strip below the place where the Glen of the Chariot-Crossing opened towards the Western Sea." The Chieftain's wife has just become the proud mother of a baby boy. He is the seventh born to the families living in the Chieftain's big house. The oldest man in the tribe predicts disaster.

Long ago before the Epidii came, the "little Dark Folk" had been been the only people living in the glen. "But their slender weapons tipped with the dark blue flint had been no match for hard cutting bronze swords, and spears tipped with the magic grey fire-metal called Iron. And so the Epidii had driven the Dark People away into the barren moors and waste places, and made their own settlements on the good land." The Epidii know that when it's time for the Dark People to sacrifice a child to their gods, they sometimes steal a seventh child from the Epidii to sacrifice instead, leaving their own child with the Epidii in its place.

But what happens to the changeling left with the Epidii? The story grows more interesting when Tethra the changeling becomes old enough to think for himself. He has never been completely accepted by the Epidii. When hard times come, he causes conflict just by existing among them. He makes a life-changing decision. Though not Sutcliff's best work, The Changeling is an engaging tale her fans will appreciate. (1974; 86 pages of large type. Recommended for preteens.)

See the listing for The Changeling at

Other historical fiction for preteens set in ancient times:

Voyage with Jason by Ken Catran (2000), about a young apprentice shipbuilder who gets the chance to sail with Jason and the Argonauts on the risky quest for the Golden Fleece. Recommended for ages 9-12. More info

Escape by Sea by L.S. Lawrence (2009), about the daughter of a senator in ancient Carthage who must flee with her father after Rome attacks and destroys their city. Recommended for ages 8-12. More info

Gladiator: Fight for Freedom by Simon Scarrow (2011), about a boy recruited into the life of a gladiator after his father is murdered and his mother forced into slavery. Recommended for ages 8-12. More info

Nonfiction about the ancient Celts:

Life of the Ancient Celts by Hazel Richardson (2005), an illustrated guide for ages 9-12 about the origins, migrations and life of the ancient Celts. More info

The Ancient Celts by Patricia Calvert (2005), an illustrated guide with chapters devoted to the way different people lived among the ancient Celts, from farmers to soldiers, for ages 11-13. More info

Everyday Life of the Celts by Neil Grant (2004), about the Celts from ancient times to the present, for ages 9-12. More info


Surviving Iron Age Britain, about the archaeology of ancient Britain, at the BBC website

Back to YA Novels: Ancient History

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