A boy faces the dark god of the dead as he tries to rescue a missing girl from hell.
Sixteen-year-old Jack Ironwood is a soulshifter, meaning he can walk in the spirit world. He also attends high school, where he overhears Natalie describe how her friend Emma was kidnapped. He convinces Natalie that the monster she thought she saw was real and that he might be able to rescue Emma. The two work together to learn what they can about trips into the dark realm. Jack consults others in his spiritual sect to learn of their experiences, developing a hypothesis that explains why certain people are kidnapped and not others. Finally, after abundant preparation and a few incidents in which Zalnic, the lord of the dark realm, tries to derail their efforts, Jack and Natalie shift bodily into the dark realm in search of Zalnic’s fortress and Emma. But everything does not go according to plan. Pietron takes her time getting to this excitement, using nearly two-thirds of her story to prepare for the journey. Once her characters are in the dark realm, she fabricates an intriguing landscape, but rather than consistently building suspense, she merely manipulates the plot in sudden moves that lead to some action. One-dimensional characters don’t help. No one other than Natalie worries about the missing Emma, who functions only as a prop.
Late excitement can’t save this flat story. (Paranormal suspense. 12-18)