The Changeling Prince
Weiland, a lonely, subdued teenager, has been serving the sorceress Daria in her isolated mountain household for as long as he can remember. There are very few solid facts he knows about his life: one, is that he's probably around 16 years old. Another, is that he may have been born a wolf. But the thing he definitely knows for certain is that each and every day, his life, and those of his fellow servants, is constantly in mortal danger.
His mistress, the sorceress Daria, is a terrible human being. Her hobby is to change animals into humans to act as her servants, and then torture them for her amusement. Now, no longer content with her woodland home, she relocates her household to the nearby town of St. Celia, where she plots to seduce an influential baron and discreetly kill off his wife and children, one by one. When Weiland figures out what she plans to do, he's horrified, but fears her wrath if he confronts her.
Then, unexpectedly, Weiland is offered the opportunity to challenge his mistress, at the possible expense of his own life. Will he be brave enough to take up the challenge?
A blend between morality tale and fairy tale, The Changeling Prince is by no means the most stunning work of fantasy you will ever read, but it's certainly worth checking out if you ever come across it. It's a relatively quick read, and the characters are all compelling and believable, even if their actions aren't always agreeable to the reader. A downside to the novel is that the ending is a bit sudden, and we're left with some important questions that go unanswered. This may be because The Changeling Prince is a companion volume to Vande Velde's 1997 novel, The Conjurer Princess, which I have not read.
Although I recommend it for Ages 15-up, it's a dark tale with its fair share of gore, so tenderhearted readers looking for romance or comedy should avoid at all costs. Also recommended for older readers, particularly fans of dark fantasy and the not-so-faint of heart.