Grissom, in her YA debut, tells the story of a boy who must choose between two warring spirit kingdoms, one of darkness, one of light.
Johnny Boggs and his parents may live in Texas, but they’re refugees from the spirit world, where the evil Queen Nara is desperately searching for her kidnapped son and heir. When Johnny’s mother is overwhelmed in a fight with Nara’s armies, and his father leaves to go and help her, Johnny is forced to live humbly in foster care here in the real world. Though Johnny attempts to do the right thing and always stick up for the weak, his anger and feeling of being misunderstood keep him bouncing from one foster family to the next. As his 16th birthday approaches, he’s visited by a henchman and a businessman from Nara, who tells him he is the heir to the Kingdom of Darkness—but he also might be the heir to the Kingdom of Light. Johnny has until his 16th birthday to make up his mind over which kingdom he chooses. The decision is complicated by the appearance of two beautiful girls, Danielle and Shay, each sent by one of the kingdoms to attempt to persuade Johnny to choose the correct side. Grissom is a talented storyteller: her prose is energetic and smooth, and Johnny is an angsty, Type A narrator. The novel’s central black-and-white dichotomy is intriguingly complex, as in the Kingdom of Darkness: “There are rows and rows of shops, bars, and restaurants with people scattered everywhere, living life on full-throttled desire. My brain scrambles to explain why this can’t be true. Darkness is full of evil, murderous people, but these people are eating, drinking, laughing, and dancing without a care in the world. My heart speeds up. The so-called truth is shattering before my eyes.” The books ends with an abrupt instance of choose-your-own-adventure-style reader participation, which may prove interesting for the implied sequel.
A well-executed rendition of familiar fantasy.