Emma was having enough trouble with high school—and then she discovered she was destined to save the world.
Debut novelist Ashley provides more YA grist for the mill of contemporary American adolescence in the first volume of a planned trilogy. Emma thought she was just a typical alienated high school student. Now she’s suddenly going into trances, magically deflecting the unwanted attention of teachers asking questions she can’t answer, and fomenting cafeteria food fights with her mind. And there’s the cute new guy in school, Connor, whose flattering attentions lead to attempted murder. Emma, it turns out, is the descendant of a race of vaguely angelic beings called El-ahren; after a schism, four of the ruling Eidolon underwent a ritual transition to human form, called Chimeran. Emma has been born and reborn for millennia, waiting for the time, which is now, when she will Awaken, so she can find the Chimeran and prevent their ancient enemy, Malum, from overwhelming the world with his evil. Emma is guarded and trained by a small cadre—the motherly Kiana; the wise Sebastian; her ex, Jordan; the class grump, Griffin; and, to Emma’s surprise, her best friend, Sarah. Emma’s Awakening alerts the opposing Sicarians to her existence, and the group must go on the run while simultaneously searching for the hidden Chimeran. Emma’s first-person narration sounds authentically adolescent, with her obsessions about her appearance and burgeoning sexuality. This does, however, lead to some narrative dissonance; the death of Emma’s aunt in a Sicarian-set house fire, the reactions of her girlfriends to seeing Emma back together with Jordan, and the discovery that she is meant to save the world all rouse her to the same level of sullen despair. The specific mythic underpinning of the plot and the identities and loyalties of the various factions are difficult to follow—what matters is that Emma is chosen and has powers, whether she likes it or not. It becomes difficult to decide whether sentences like “As quickly as the bubonic plague spread through Europe, goosebumps broke out across my arms as I started literally freaking out” are accurate evocations of teenage hyperbole or just awkward writing. Sadly, the consistent misuse of “don” for “dawn” and the fact that everything happens “immediately” or “suddenly” leads one to suspect the latter.
There’s action, romance and mysticism, but ultimately, it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.