Gentry isn't like other towns. In Gentry, it isn't unusual for a mother to hang a pair of scissors over her baby's crib, for people to nail horseshoes to their fences or, sadly, for young children to sicken and die. No one talks about it, but that's the way it is.
For as far back as he can remember, Mackie Doyle has known he was different. His family is determined to hide that strangeness in order to protect him, but they don't ever talk about the truth of it: about what Mackie is, and about who he replaced.
Because Mackie is a changeling, a cast-off. When the original Malcolm Doyle was stolen from his crib, Mackie is the thing that was left in his place. He wasn't supposed to survive. But he did. And his family loves him.
But he wasn't built to survive in a human world -- and he's slowly dying. To find a way to survive -- and to, hopefully, prevent more tragedy -- he's going to have to finally face his past, and with it, the secrets the town has been (literally) sitting on for hundreds of years.
I'm a little late in getting around to The Replacement, because back when it came out, there was a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about it. And while buzz, I'm sure, is great for a book, I've reached a point where I don't really trust it -- sometimes it can be difficult to tell if it's genuine buzz or manufactured buzz¹. And sometimes, there's lots of buzz about a book that turns out, in my opinion, to be unworthy. That turns out to be, simply, a stinker.
Not so in this case. In this case, the buzz, wherever it began², was warranted.
The Replacement is a great, original spin on the changeling story. Although he sees himself as an outsider, Mackie's got an excellent support network -- though he doesn't always realize it -- in his family and his friends, and he's incredibly easy to identify with. Brenna Yovanoff does an excellent job of letting Mackie (and the reader) make assumptions based on long-held beliefs and then turning his (and our) world upside-down, again and again. Sometimes in a way that proves the world to be a better place than previously assumed, rather than the alternative -- which, in stories that deal with such darkness, is a rarity.
The writing is strong and the dialogue is believable, as is Mackie's voice, the setting feels real and right (and actually, a bit like a town that the Winchester brothers visited once, but with more rain, more unrest, and minus the townsfolks' active participation in the ritual sacrifice), as does Tate's frustration with everyone's refusal to acknowledge what she sees as the truth, the romance has sparks, and the plot has both suspense and surprising twists. My only complaint is that the Big Dramatic Climax felt confused and rushed, and didn't match the tone of the rest of the book.
Definitely recommended to those who like the dark fantasy, to those who are interested in different takes on the Fair Folk, and to fans of Maggie Stiefvater.
¹ I've received enough requests to host a Book Launch Blog Tour stop that I've gotten a little bit jaded.
² I do think it was a book tour, actually. A book tour and a big push by the publisher.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.