Mixed martial arts, Thai legend and human trafficking come together in this gritty fantasy adventure.
Seventeen-year-old martial artist Jade Barrera’s anger management issues threaten to sabotage her dreams of winning a title on the professional fight circuit. After she assaults a movie star who is working on a business deal with her gym, her mentor sends her to Thailand to lie low and train. Meanwhile, a young girl in Thailand, Mya, realizes that the man who is both benefactor and captor to her is using her ability to travel back and forth from Himmapan, a magical forest filled with legendary animals, for criminal purposes. Mya flees and eventually finds her way to New Jersey, where Jade is discovering that fresh trouble has followed her home. Sullivan deftly evokes the brutality and adrenaline rush of MMA and Muay Thai fights, but she struggles to weave the supernatural elements smoothly into the novel. It’s more than a little jarring when the story first shifts from the contemporary urban realism of Jade’s life to a magical forest. Jade’s strength and tenacity make her an appealing protagonist—and it’s refreshing to see a black Latina lead, given their rarity in fiction for teens—so it’s unfortunate that the chapters told from her first-person perspective are hobbled by clunky dialogue and inconsistencies of tone.
Less than the sum of its many interesting parts. (Fantasy. 14-18)