The Changes Trilogy
WARNING:This is a complete story summary intended for parents or others who wish to know the contents of The Changes Trilogy. It will contain spoilers. To see a spoiler-free summary and other details about the book please visit the review page.
The Devil’s Children: Nicky Gore has been separated from her parents in the chaos following the onset of The Changes – a mysterious influence which has left all British people afraid of technology and aggressive towards any use of it. Realising that her family won’t return, she falls in with a group of Sikhs, an extended and their friends, who are crossing London from the West. They are unaffected by The Changes, but as foreigners they are feared and mistrusted. They are travelling into the country to find somewhere out-of-the-way to settle. They agree to take Nicky with them as a canary: to warn them when anything they do is likely to be viewed as forbidden by the newly-hostile islanders.
They settle on a farm outside a village in Surrey. Pooling their knowledge and skills, they start to make the farm workable and set up a forge to build and repair tools. This gives them the means to trade with the nearby villagers who regard them with suspicion, as the Devil’s Children. Nicky forms a shell around her heart against the loss of her family, but she makes friends with the Sikh children and has an especial bond with their old grandmother. She acts as a go-between, bartering with the village spokesman for food and other materials in exchange for tools and repairs which the villagers themselves can’t manage.
When the village is attacked by armed thugs who take all the British children hostage, the Sikhs mount a rescue. The invaders are defeated, mostly killed, and there are a few deaths among the villagers and the Sikhs. This action unites the two groups. Finally Nicky is warned by the understanding matriarch of the Sikh family that she must take this opportunity to travel to the coast and then on to France before the island closes in on itself too much and she forgets her own family.
Heartsease: Margaret lives with her uncle and aunt and her cousin Jonathan on their farm in Gloucestershire. The Changes happened a few years ago now, and people follow a simple way of life, bound to the demands of the land and of the seasons. For some the influence of The Changes has worn off, wholly or partly. Jonathan secretly investigates the unused machinery lying around the farm, keeping his activities carefully hidden from Davey Gordon, the village’s unofficial elder and uncanny witch-finder. Margaret is still uneasy around technology and prefers the company of the animals, especially her pony Scrub.
Together they hide away Otto, an injured American parachuted in to investigate the state of the country but found by the villagers and stoned and left for dead. They hide him in a barn and, helped by servant Lucy and her simpleton brother Tim, they help build up his strength while they plan to help him escape on Heartsease, a canal boat abandoned nearby. They manage to keep Otto hidden in spite of increasingly pertinent enquiries by the villagers but they have to rush him away when searchers come too close. Jonathan leaves a note for his parents which alerts his family of their plans.
Jonathan pilots the boat down the canal while Margaret, riding Scrub, goes ahead to open the bridges and to distract local villagers as the mechanical boat passes by. Their own villagers go on ahead to prevent them passing one of the bridges but Margaret looses a bull from a nearby field, sending some of them into the canal, including Davey Gordon, and scattering the rest. They finally make the Bristol Channel but Scrub goes overboard and Margaret jumps after him, both swimming to safety. They return to her uncle’s farm to find that Davey Gordon didn’t make it out of the canal and that the oppression which he brought to the village has lifted.
The Weathermonger: Geoffrey wakes up having lost his memory to find himself and his younger sister Sally stranded in Weymouth Bay with the tide rising, watched by angry townspeople. He instinctively calls up a mist under cover of which he swims them both to his uncle’s motorboat which he manages to start. Sally explains about The Changes and that he was the town’s weathermonger, possessing a supernatural ability to sense and affect the weather, drawing the necessary climatic pieces together to ensure sunshine, or rain, or a thick mist.
They cross the Channel to France where they tell their story to the refugee committee. There have been no new refugees for some time now, and the men are interested to hear of the current situation and explain that, while they’re able to see a certain amount from weather satellites, they’ve been unable to send anyone in to get more information: their agents are captured as spies or go native, becoming like the Britons themselves.
The children are persuaded to return to Britain in an attempt to discover the source of the mysterious Changes which the French believe originated somewhere in Wales. Geoffrey is taught how to drive a Rolls Royce and a small British boat crew ferries them back over. They take a Rolls Royce from Beaulieu Abbey where Geoffrey & Sally leave the boatmen and travel inland, making for Wales.
They manage to evade pursuing horsemen but the car draws the attention of the Power behind the Changes and a storm cloud gathers near it, charged with electricity. Geoffrey tries to repel it with his own power but is bested and the children leave the vehicle just before it’s destroyed by a lightning bolt. They fall in with another weathermonger who helps persaude mistrustful villagers that they’re harmless travellers. Overnight, however, he robs them of their money and deserts them.
Following the instructions they had been given in France and helped by local rumour, the children discover a castle in the spot from where The Changes seem to have started. There they find a retired pharmacist and amateur archaeologist who had discovered a mysterious cavern years before, found a large and powerful man asleep inside and fed him on morphine, forming an addiction which had kept the stranger subservient ever since. From the inscription in the cavern it’s clear that the stranger is Merlin and that his reaction on waking into the strange world of the 20th century was to exert his powerful magic to return things to a more familiar pattern.
Geoffrey engineers a local temperature drop, causing the pharmacist to slip on a patch of ice and break his leg. As a result Geoffrey and Sally have to take Merlin his food and drink and the morphine. Sally, speaking Latin as all schoolchildren now do, tries to explain to the magician about the addiction and the pharmacist’s actions. The children escape as Merlin brings the castle down around them, sealing it magically so that he’s once more buried under stone. The Changes end and Britain is once again open to the world.