In this YA fantasy adventure, an outcast high-schooler discovers his true destiny as an elf.
Timothy Brennan feels like another species compared with the students at school. Much to his astonishment, he’s right. Six months after his widowed mother died, Timothy is living with his crude, neglectful uncle, having little to hope for except that the jocks won’t notice him and that pretty Melanie Marshall will. All this changes when he meets Aenya, a new girl in school. Even prettier than Melanie, Aenya defends Tim from bullies—and then saves him from a suicide attempt. Tim soon realizes that, unlike his new friend, most teenage girls “don’t live in fantasy cottages in the middle of the forest by themselves.” Aenya explains that she’s a fairy; he’s an elf, and his mother was murdered by an enemy faction. Vowing to avenge her, Timothy and Aenya travel to Aenya’s homeland in Ireland to learn more about his family’s history. Tim learns that, as the seventh son of a seventh son, he has special powers and might be the one to wield the Sword of Connleodh and end the evil elf Cadwaladr’s takeover plans. In his debut novel, Nilsen offers a fast pace, a relatable hero and a well-considered reworking of Celtic myth. Many elements are familiar from similar stories: the outcast hero with abilities, notable parents and a significant role to play in defeating an evil overlord. When Aenya tells Tim, “There is more to you than you realize,” this is what every teenager wants to hear. It’s typical of this genre’s wish-fulfillment aspects that Tim’s abilities are innate, needing only to be tapped rather than developed through long years of study and practice. But Nilsen gives Tim enough flaws (insecurity, possessiveness) to make him interesting, and he undergoes real losses in finding his destiny. Common sense and humor also help leaven the story; when Tim asks how his uncle, also an elf, can be “such an asshole,” Aenya replies, “Trust me, there are assholes in every species.”
A good mix of strong action scenes, intriguing lore and personal development helps elevate this YA fantasy above its well-worn tropes.