In this debut YA contemporary fantasy novel, a teenage witch faces her first Trial, but a much bigger challenge looms as covens battle one another and vampires gain power.
Allery Alexia Wick of South Haven, Michigan, is much like other 15-year-olds: she remains rebellious, worries about friendships, and studies hard for a test that will determine her future. But that test isn’t the SAT, because Alexia is a witch. Her family belongs to one of the three coven branches, Alerium; her parents are a High Priestess and Priest. Ambitious and stubborn, Alexia resolves to work hard with her mentor, Darren Smalls, on spellcasting and combat-oriented magic and with her after-school club on prepping for the Trials (South Haven Academy for the Gifted and Talented is a public magnet school, but many students are secretly witches). Starting her sophomore year, Alexia makes two discoveries: her best friend drops her, and Kaleb, a handsome new student, makes her heart pound and face blush. (He’s pale, slightly glowing, and needs to be invited inside; Alexia isn’t immediately suspicious.) She tries to sort out high school angst as she attends class, goes to football games, and plays Truth or Dare, but a far more serious conflict materializes among the covens and with vampires—a clash that worsens when a secret book is stolen, with disastrous results for the teenagers’ Trials. With Alexia’s sister kidnapped, the book still missing, and a war to prevent, the story ends on a to-be-continued cliffhanger. There’s much that’s competent and well-drawn in Almonte’s novel, especially his descriptions of settings and how things work, like magic or the Trial challenges. But mainly, the standard YA playbook applies: angst and defiant emotions, love at first sight, vampire boyfriend, and The Hunger Games–like trials that put teenagers at risk. And some elements aren’t well thought out, like a book that’s crucial to keep secret but whose hiding place is easily discovered by a teenager’s accidental touch. (Clueless adults are also from the playbook.) And the unresolved ending, while intended as a setup for sequels, disappoints readers wanting a conclusion.
An enjoyable tale about a tenacious witch for genre fans who aren’t expecting departures.