A well-wrought and engrossing coming-of-age story about shared consciousness.

The Tripartite Soul

A quasi-medieval YA fantasy follows three spiritually joined individuals.

Nicholson’s fictional debut takes place in the kingdom of Sylvaria and centers on an unlikely trio: there’s Eviona, a despised and semiferal orphan girl brought up by an evil guardian to think of herself as a monster; Dyre, the haughty and noble young hopeful heir to the kingdom; and  Zefforah, a winged, horselike creature with a long lizard’s tail. The three separate beings are linked telepathically, sharing their conscious experiences except for the moments when they carefully “veil” themselves from each other. As the story commences, Eviona leaves her wild life and is taken in by a kindly couple, becoming friends with their young daughter. The family sends the two girls to the home of a wealthy relation, where they’re educated and initiated into the refined world of Sylvaria’s nobility. Eviona slowly emerges from her shell of neglect and self-loathing. Once cleaned, well-fed and well-dressed, she turns out to be a beautiful and unconventionally smart young woman, someone who naturally begins to make friends in her new town (including a smiling teenage boy named Jovan, who plays an important part in her drama). Her life has always been complicated by the fact that she, Dyre, and Zefforah share not only each other’s thoughts, but also each other’s sensory experiences (when one is struck, all three feel it). As the story progresses, she encounters more difficulties as the mysteries of her birth are cleared up in ways that change her path forever—and bring her into direct conflict with Dyre’s own ambitions. The author’s worldbuilding is at times shaky and nebulous, but the central device of her plot—the three-in-one consciousness of her main characters—is magnificently realized. In short, fast-paced chapters, Nicholson adeptly dramatizes Eviona’s blossoming; her maturation feels both genuine and heartwarming. At one point, she finally gazes at herself in the mirror she’s been assiduously avoiding: “My eyes were large blue pools, my hair sunshine, and my lips deep red cherries against pale peach skin. I’d seen others with similar features, but never imagined my reflection would hold such unbelievable beauty.” The book’s adult characters tend toward one-dimensionality, but the dynamic between Eviona and Dyre is grippingly drawn. The result is a remarkable narrative that should leave readers wanting more from this author.

A well-wrought and engrossing coming-of-age story about shared consciousness.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 421

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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