Book Review: Switched

PrintE-mail Written by Phil Beresford

Review: Switched - Book One in the Trylle Trilogy / Author: Amanda Hocking / Publisher: Tor / Format: Paperback, Kindle / Release date: Out now 

You can't deny Amanda Hocking’s success. A self-published author who has achieved the staggering feat of over 1.5 million e-book sales, she deserves all the admiration in the world for pursuing her ambitions and reaping the rewards. However, judging by Switched, Amanda Hocking is not a great writer. Granted, this is not something that is always necessary in order to be able to spin a good yarn but on this evidence, she's not a particularly good story teller either.

Switched tells the story of Wendy Everly, a troubled 17 year-old who finds it difficult to fit in at school. In a revelation that explains her feelings of displacement, a mysterious boy called Finn tells her that she is a Trylle (that's troll to the rest of us) and that she was placed with her family shortly after her mother's real child was stolen away. Furthermore, unlike the wart ridden monsters that lumber about wearing fart-drenched trousers in fairy tales, Trylle are a magical and beautiful race who would give Galadriel and her mob a run for their money when it comes to good looks. So Wendy must journey to the Trylle land of Förening where she will learn who she really is.

The opening chapters of the novel are the strongest, Hocking depicting a highly traumatic event that sets the scene for what follows. The writing is pacey and dramatic, while Wendy is introduced as a wilful but sympathetic individual who can more than take care of herself. That is until she meets Finn. From then on Hocking’s heroine regresses into a needy and whiny adolescent who is constantly being rescued, never demonstrating any of the strength that made her likeable in the first place.

Reader annoyance is compounded by default exchanges that seem to take place every other page once the big revelation of who Wendy is has occurred. These follow the form of her asking a question, the response usually amounting to "I can't tell you now but you'll find out later". All of which would be fine if we did find out anything of interest later or even experienced something else of consequence in the meantime but alas we don’t. Soon you’ll feel like chipping in on her behalf with "Keep your explanation, I'm not that bothered".

It might be possible to overlook these faults were the inhabitants and environment of Förening sufficiently diverting but they’re not. Förening is a gated community described like the set of Desperate Housewives, its huge white faced homes housing huge white faced egomaniacs, all of whom indulge in sub Dynasty badinage that Joan Collins would consider beneath her. At one point Wendy even describes these people as “not that interesting”. Well thanks Amanda, that's great. If your main character doesn't find these people sufficiently intriguing then what hope for your readers?

There's some mild peril introduced as the novel progresses but it all feels rather rushed, as though Hocking realised that she ought to make something happen. By that point however I had given up and I suspect reports of the book being written in just over a week are true given how everything seems to get resolved in the space of 3 or 4 pages. It really is shocking in its contrivance.

The very best fantasy novels come alive to readers of all ages because they create convincing, dangerous, magical worlds unlike any other and populate it with characters, environments and wonders that immerse the reader in that world, making them want to stay there. Unfortunately, with Switched, Amanda Hocking has failed on both counts.

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