Review: The Stolen Child

Posted: October 15, 2016 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Keith Donohue, Fantasy

When Henry Day was seven years old he was stolen by hobgoblins, one of their own changlings taking his place in the real world, while he joined the band of children living in the forest. They are both interlopers in their respective worlds, the real Henry Day now known as Aniday, and the changling Henry Day being raised by parents not his own, his parents long dead

Changling Henry Day was abducted 100 years previously, and spent the intervening years learning the ways of the hobgoblins, surviving the forest with eleven other children of various ages, waiting his turn until he could take the place of another child and return to the real world. As Henry Day grows up he is constantly reminded of his origins, while everyone around him is oblivious to his inner turmoil, his resentment that the hobgoblins have stolen his past. While another lives the life he should have, Aniday must learn the ways of the forest and how to survive among a band of wild children who are older than they look.

The hobgoblins have lived in the woods for hundreds of years, but their domain has shrunk over time as neighborhoods encroach on their territory. After a botched changeling attempt, their numbers begin to dwindle, and their home is destroyed. How can they survive in a world that could possibly search out and destroy them? Even though many people don’t believe they exist, they know something strange is going on in the woods.

The hobgoblins have the magic of the fey, and ‘baptize’ their victims, their exterior remaining forever a child’s, while inside they age. They can manipulate their bodies, hence making themselves resemble the children they replace. The source of the magic is never explained, and the origins of the changelings are only hinted at. However, Donohue explains interesting details about the properties of magic the children have, such as their ability to stretch and manipulate their bodies, to not only change their appearance, but so they can fit through small openings.

TWhen Henry Day was seven, he was stolen by hobgoblins, and replaced with a changling. Then he joined the band of children living in the forest.

THE STOLEN CHILD is narrated by both the real Henry Day and his changeling counterpart. The emotions of the main characters are understated and make the reader feel somewhat removed, but the result is effective, because we feel their separation from society and their difficulty in attaching themselves to the people and places that surround them, knowing as they do that they really don’t belong.

The prose is beautiful but not flowery, adding to the tone of the book. I’m sure there’s some deeper insight to the book, such as how all children feel like interlopers at some time in their lives, and etc (being the mother of teenagers, it seems like they feel this way all the time). But I read THE STOLEN CHILD for the story, and Donohue drops hints like a pro, stringing us along, tempting us to keep reading to find out more.  In a way the book could be a tragedy for several reasons: children are stolen from their families; the stolen children are forced to live a feral life with other hobgoblins, constantly plotting to take another child; the hobgoblins are losing their foothold in the world; the changelings, once back in the real world, often never ‘recover’ from their time in the woods and live their lives broken. But the changeling Henry Day and the hobgoblin Aniday work to get past their troubles. Will they be able to finally find a place in their respective worlds and come to an accept it? Will they be able to change their lives for the better? Or will they let the tragedy that is their life break them, like it has many others?

  • Recommended Age: 15+ for themes
  • Language: Not much
  • Violence: Fisticuffs
  • Sex: Referenced

(This review was originally posted on in 2006; archived on forums)

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