A teenager finds new challenges and otherworldly surprises in this debut novel.
At the start of her senior year in high school, 17-year-old Elara Dunlin moves with her mom and dad from Maine to Texas. Elara, a loner, tries to cope with the uprooting. The climate is too hot; she is forced to take a Spanish class with freshmen; and the one friend she makes—Cyrus, whose affable nature and Greek god physique make her heart race—has a jealous cheerleader girlfriend. But Elara stays positive through her setbacks, focusing on things she is good at (calculus, English literature) and things she can make better through her own actions. What really worries her is the young man with the black hair and blue eyes she finds staring at her through the window on her first night in the new house. This same man seems to be stalking her and appearing, quite literally, out of nowhere, first near her alone and then around her and Cyrus when they’re together. Elara and Cyrus, it turns out, share a birthday; when they turn 18, they begin to exhibit supernatural powers. Elara confronts the black-haired stranger. She demands answers, but those answers turn her life—not just her teen existence in Texas, but also her entire personal history—upside down. What secret past do she, Cyrus, and the stranger share? And once it is revealed, what will the future hold? In this series opener, Buckler (Stillness of Time, 2018) writes in an easy, engaging style, foreshadowing the book’s (somewhat expository) turn toward sci-fi but in the meantime building the story upward from the point of view of a normal teen with everyday problems. The romance element serves to ground Elara in readers’ estimation while life lessons are worked unobtrusively into the mix. The text is not without its faults: There are distracting glitches like “Unchartered Territory” and the persistent use of “parent’s” as a plural possessive. And Elara, although generally a convincing first-person narrator, sounds less natural when presenting her thoughts as an inner monologue. Nevertheless, the story is lightly paced, and the characters should appeal to YA and New Adult readers, with the players’ revelatory arcs creating anticipation for the sequel.
A solid beginning to a sci-fi series, with the promise of more adventures to come.