In this debut YA novel, a teenager lands in a brutal world of magic, where he proves to be something more than human and the key to a sadistic leader’s dark plot.
Sixteen-year-old Hale has no idea why he and his older sister, Carly, have been kidnapped or why they are being subjected to systematic torture. After an escape attempt brings Hale both freedom and tragedy, he is drawn by an evil schemer into the magical, violent Land of the Griffins, where everything he thought he knew about himself and his world changes. Hale must learn not only how to survive (echoes of Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games), but also just who and what he really is. (Ethnicities aren’t mentioned; characters’ skin colors are white, tan, olive, and blue; Hale is white.) This ambitious novel covers broad fantasy territory: magic objects open portals to different planes of existence; humans turn into griffins and werewolves; and there are manipulative telepaths, a soul-stealing witch, woodland nymphs, assorted other magic wielders, and a sad siren whose voice kills. Family relationships, both good and bad, thread throughout the book, as do plentiful scenes of violence: among them, teens engaged in death matches and a graphic description of an attempted rape. Hale’s inventive story is one of several separate narratives involving various sets of intriguing characters and plotlines that eventually interconnect, offering answers to motives and mysteries that initially seem obscure. (What or who compelled the kidnapper’s brutality? Why have Hale and other teenagers been plucked from the human world to manifest their inner griffins?) Unfortunately, the text has a first-draft feel, diluting Noble’s vibrant tale with many awkward phrasings (“His face had formed wrinkles in all places he expressed thought. His black eyes protruded determination and anxiety”; “All the while, the stranger’s back continued to face them without care”). The novel’s abrupt open ending suggests a sequel to come.
An imaginative, vivid, and violent fantasy hampered by deficient editing.