Written by self-published author Amanda Hocking, Switched recently made its debut in the traditional book market of the United States and Europe after becoming a hit with escalating e-book sales on Amazon.
Switched is the first of a trilogy describing a fantasy world of trolls (or the Trylle, as Hocking calls them) who live in a world parallel to ours, very much like the juxtaposition of the Muggle and Wizarding worlds in the Harry Potter series.
The plot centres on the awkward, adolescent Wendy who, having grown up feeling slightly out of place in her human family setting, discovers at the tender age of 17 that she is in fact a troll that was "switched" at birth into a member of a wealthy human family. She is not just any troll but the daughter of the queen of Forening, the name given to the troll world.
The discovery answers a lot of questions that have clouded her childhood: Why did her mother attack her? Why did she say Wendy was not her daughter?
After the discovery of her true identity, the events start to unfold at a quicker pace as she tries rather clumsily to integrate into the Tryll world and learn the ways of the people she will soon be ruling over.
Her situation is complicated somewhat with her growing feelings for Finn, her tracker, who found her and brought her to her rightful world.
Because it is the first book in the series, Hocking devotes a chunk of it to set up the scene through the eyes of a confused Wendy, who spends her time trying to grasp the history, culture and tradition of the Trylle.
As the main protagonist, Wendy is portrayed as a discomfited, yet likeable, character who is just trying to find her foot in a new world. Her innocence and self-consciousness come to the fore through the self-deprecating descriptions of herself. The fact that Wendy does not fulfil the profile of a princess makes her more human and loveable to her readers. She appeals to the countless teenagers who feel uncomfortable in their own skin, looking to escape into a world where it is possible that there is a reason for their awkwardness.
The subject of trolls fills a niche in the fantasy-fiction genre that is crowded with vampire, zombies and fairies. The traditional view of trolls being ugly, deformed and bad-tempered is turned on its head in Switched. The Trylle in Hocking's book take on the appearance of normal people whose only difference is the tinge of green on their skin.
Hocking depicts a community struggling to maintain its ancient heritage in a modern setting. Their magical powers, which set them apart from human beings, have been diminished by the daily humdrum of the community's bureaucratic and class systems. It is Wendy's foreign, unsullied view into this world that offers hope to the continuation of the community.
Aiming to appeal to popular culture, Hocking doesn't shy away from clichéd cliffhangers and page-turners. The writing is bare in style, but strong in plot and characterisation, with enough twists and turns to carry readers quickly through to the end of the novel. Its simple style makes it accessible to teenagers and young adults looking to escape to a fantasy world full of possibilities. The romantic twist in the story also spurs their interest.
Unanswered questions and hints to a murkier future pave the way for the remaining two novels in the series.
SwitchedBy Amanda Hocking,Tor Books, 336 pages, £7.99