An Exchange of Gifts is sweeter and more innocent than most Anne McCaffrey tales. It reads like a forgotten fairy tale, including the happy ending. The pages have an elaborate pen and ink border illustrated by Pat Morissey. The border also attributes to the fairy story ambiance.
In this world everyone has a special gift. Princess Anastasia’s special gifts are the Green Thumb and the Curing Hand. Her royal family does not encourage such a gift. They are not happy that Anastasia want to dig in dirt and crush herbs. They also want her to marry a man she does not love. She decides to leave and find a place to use her gift. She begins calling herself by her childhood name of “Meanne”.
Meanne runs away to a small cottage she remembers from hunting trips with her father. The cottage is filthy and in disrepair. Meanne does what she can, but is frustrated by a clogged chimney and other non-royal chores. Soon, a pale young lad shows up. He goes by the name of Wisp. He helps Meanne unclog the chimney. Meanne tends to the wounds across his back from a recent lashing. Wisp teaches her to cook bread and pancakes.
Strange things happen around Wisp. Things aren’t always as they appear. He pays off a Forester with pebbles, but they clink like coins and fool the man. Wisp seems to be able to keep the cottage hidden from others. At times, Meanne finds him taller than she expects, and he eats much more than would be expected for a thin child.
The end of the story has Meanne and Wisp both revealing their unexpected secrets and gifts to the other. This is a fun, quick read – recommended for young adults and older, and for Anne McCaffrey tales.