REVIEW: The Oddmire by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers, available in Canada through Thomas Allen & Son
Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.
~ Review ~
Goblins, fairies, and enchanted forests on the border between worlds? The Oddmire, Book I: Changeling is definitely my jam (or perhaps, marmalade, as the protagonist twins, Cole and Tinn, would prefer.)
Goblins, fairies, hinkypunks…
Warm bonds of family and friendship drive the characters and Ritter sprinkles sardonic humor throughout his story, especially when the goblin, Kull, is involved. Together, these give The Oddmire heart and humor–the best of both worlds in Middle Grade.
And these characters are indeed caught between two worlds–the human and the magical. Cole and Tinn are as close as brothers can be, even down to their matching scrapes and bruises, but neither knows who is truly human and who a changeling replica. This tension successfully draws the reader along as the boys venture from their mother’s house into the Wild Wood to discover their true identity.
… and changelings–oh my!
The plot follows a fairly simple, but effective quest plot line with the boys encountering interesting new allies and adversaries along their journey. I particularly enjoyed how their mother joins the adventure in her effort to protect her boys. We’re always shuffling parents aside in children’s books so kids can journey without supervision, and while Cole and Tinn face plenty of danger on their own, it strengthened the emotional heart of the story to see their mother intrepidly tracking them and standing with them in their moment of peril.
Once we know which boy is the changeling (no spoiler, here!) the focus inevitably shifts to him, leaving his brother as a less crucial part of the narrative. This somewhat deflates the great dynamic the twins had in the first half of the book, but it was necessary to the thematic arc of the boys’ journey: growing up and growing into their own individual selves.
I look forward to sequels to this exciting opener. With its mischievous siblings and otherworldly magic , Ritter’s books should earn a deserved place alongside other successful fairy series like Holly Black’s Spiderwick Chronicles.
Follow William: @willothewords
Thank you to Thomas Allen and Son for providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review!