A young American woman in Czechoslovakia goes on a quest for an immortality potion in this debut young-adult thriller.
After the Iron Curtain is lifted in 1991, 18-year-old Hana Silna travels to Prague to take possession of The Rockery, her family home. She’s flying alone because her father is dead and her mother is seriously ill. Her Czech cousins, The Rockery’s co-owners, greet her with friendly warmth. Soon after she arrives, however, Hana finds herself embroiled in a dangerous search for a flask once owned by an alchemist who knew the secret of immortality. Aided by diplomat’s son Alex Williams and others, Hana explores Prague landmarks, castles and even torture chambers. She races to unravel centuries-old riddles, dodging bad guys as she figures out whom she can trust. In her debut novel, DeBruce makes good use of her beautiful setting, intelligently showcasing Prague’s local history, art, people and places. She also ups the ante by including several vulnerable characters for Hana to worry about, such as Alex’s sister, who suffers from a severe medical condition. The author also nicely handles the immortality aspect with reasonably scientific explanations. Hana has a wry, likeable first-person voice; at one point, she considers calling her mother, but wonders what to say: “The good news is we have The Rockery back; the bad news is I’m being chased all over Prague by an immortal psycho killer.” Meanwhile, motorcycle-riding Alex is a useful and, Hana must admit, attractive partner. DeBruce sustains the mystery by periodically using a second narrator (other than Hana), known as the Nomad. The sometimes violent action moves quickly, with exciting chases and unexpected twists. After the story ends with “To Be Continued,” readers will likely to want to see more of Hana and Alex.
An exciting YA thriller with supernatural elements and a brave, enterprising heroine.