The best books on double identities and other selves

Lark Westerly Author Of Being Tamzin 1
By Lark Westerly

The Books I Picked & Why

Howl's Moving Castle

By Diana Wynne Jones

Book cover of Howl's Moving Castle

Why this book?

Wizard Howl has a shocking reputation in Ingary. He rattles around the moors and the town of Market Chipping in a moving, smoking castle, and is rumoured to eat girls. Sophie is afraid of him, but after she tangles with the Witch of the Waste, and becomes an old woman, Howl seems far less scary. Howl, spoiler alert, is also Howell Jenkins, a Welshman, who has somehow got himself into Ingary where he carries on a flourishing second life. What with Calcifer the fire demon, who is also something else, this story is a glorious exploration of identity, real and assumed, and how this affects self-image and behaviour. 

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The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance

By Margaret Mahy

Book cover of The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance

Why this book?

Laura Chant knows the world can wobble. She knows the boy at school, Sorry Carlisle, is a good deal more than he seems. When her little brother is lost to a vicious predator, Laura has to find a new self, or perhaps her own hidden depths, and face the changeover, which will remake her into another form. To do this, she has to place her trust in Sorry and his strange family, but she’ll do anything to save Jacko. Margaret Mahy is one of my favourite writers, and I think this book is her best. It is beautifully written in her inimitable style. 

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Rivers of London

By Ben Aaronovitch

Book cover of Rivers of London

Why this book?

Peter Grant, who narrates his own story, is a London copper. His dad is a down-on-his-luck musician, and his mum cleans for a living. Peter just gets on with it. One day…he sees a ghost. From that time on, Peter finds a whole new identity as a trainee wizard who is also a London copper. Now based at The Folly, with a weird dog, his boss Thomas Nightingale, and the weirder housekeeper, Peter discovers a whole new world in his familiar London. This dual identity; copper and wizard, matches Peter’s other duality as the son of a Caucasian father and a mother from Sierra Leone. 

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Three Mages and a Margarita

By Annette Marie

Book cover of Three Mages and a Margarita

Why this book?

Tori is a waitress whose firecracker temper loses as many jobs as her red-headed appeal gets her. Having blundered into the guild of the Crow and Hammer, she lands a new gig as a bartender, and three new and devoted friends in Aaron, Ezra, and Kai. Her dream job comes with a large helping of danger, and a built-in use-by date when the Powers that Be must inevitably discover Tori can’t legally work for the guild because she’s not a mythic. Or… can she possibly get a new classification? Strictly speaking, Tori’s new identity kicks in well after this book, but the series is great fun.

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Magic Flutes

By Eva Ibbotson

Book cover of Magic Flutes

Why this book?

Princess Theresa-Maria has wonderful breeding but no money and little future in the crumbling Austrian castle where she lives with ancient relations. Rebranding herself as Tessa, our heroine becomes a wardrobe mistress, working for nothing for an opera company almost as destitute as she is. Tessa is much happier until she falls in love with a wealthy man…a poor-boy-made-good, who hires the company to delight his fiancée. With much melodrama, an unlikely pot of yogurt, a drastic haircut, a metaphorical silk purse, and a button, this story wends its opulent way to a happy ending. The hero’s foster mother, Martha, crawling about the castle as a self-ordered penance for telling fibs is a particularly odd moment, but whether she is being Theresa-Maria or plain Tessa, our heroine is a wistful, starry-eyed delight. 

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