A young woman gains magical powers and discovers a secret, fantastic world in George’s debut novel.
British university student Avery “Ava” Gray studies international business with her friends and lives a fairly ordinary life. But when a bizarre incident at Hayven Books nearly kills her, Ava’s destiny changes forever. Ava is warned by an “old woman…[with] blue, vein-lined eyelids...arms [laid] out limp with life within them” of the coming of “a terrible darkness” if she doesn’t act to turn the tide. While recovering, she encounters the striking Theodore-James “Theo” Connors and the mysterious Jane Hartleigh, and subsequently discovers that she has strange new powers. Ava, it turns out, is a “gifter”: a human with magical abilities beyond those of ordinary people. Her new friends introduce her to the mystic city of Hayven, which exists in the human world but separate from it, and she soon becomes part of its society. But with her new path comes great danger, as she struggles to help protect Hayven from sinister forces, even as she deals with her growing feelings for Theo. Meanwhile, it seems that the line between the normal world and the magical one isn’t as solid as it had first appeared. The premise of a likable reader-surrogate discovering hidden powers and life’s purpose is common by now. What George brings to her version is a sort of writerly charisma: her narrative style is inviting, and she demonstrates a good sense of character and pacing. Even Theo, the magical boyfriend, transcends the limits of such stock figures; like most of the cast, he’s shown to have an inner life and thinks and feels about subjects other than the main character and plot. The dialogue is natural and effective, and the overall storyline is reasonably inventive. The author also wisely does just enough worldbuilding to tell the story, rather than offering a travelogue of her fictional world. As with many novels in this genre, it’s the first in a planned series, and in this case, further installments would be welcome.
An engaging YA fantasy/romance adventure.