The first installment in the Opal Summerfield series has her discovering her magical origins and a parallel world.
Opal Summerfield, the heroine of Jones’ debut fantasy series, lives an ordinary life in the Ozarkswith her adoptive parents. But on her 16th birthday, she receives a mysterious gift from the pet hawk of a mystic—a beautiful opal necklace. What she doesn’t know is that the opal necklace, which belonged to her dead mother, has great magic and will lead her to discover whom she really is. It is also coveted by, among others, the wicked Big Maggie, a disguise of Amina the Conjurer, who will stop at nothing to possess it. When hooded men kill Opal’s family, she flees deep into the wilderness, crossing a threshold into another world. An undercurrent of racial tension is at work in Jones’ novel: Opal is a blue-eyed African-American girl, “a spectacle among both the white folks and the black folks of the town.” With great attention to worldbuilding, Jones creates two very different realms, making for the interesting contrast between Grigg’s Landing in the Ozarks, where there’s a distinction between the white and blacksides of town, and the magical land called the Veil. The Veil is a place full of magical creatures and places, such as flaming horses and Fallmoon Gap, a beautiful city hidden in the mountains. In the wilderness, Opal is helped by a boy named Luka, a member of the Wardens, who protect the mountains and Fallmoon Gap. There’s also the mysterious Ranger, who’s tasked with saving her. Yet Opal is no girly girl or damsel in distress. When she’s attacked by wereboars, she fights them off with the help of her magical necklace. She’s tough, brave and smart—an appealing heroine for young readers, especially girls. The narrative slows down in the dull middle sections, but it finds its stride when Opal makes it to Fallmoon Gap, where she learns how to control the magic of her opal necklace. Taking classes such as Forensic Magic & Engineering Enchantments and Magical Armaments, Opal trains to be a Warden. In the climactic, action-packed final act, Opal learns terrible truths about Amina, the Ranger and herself as she battles to protect the Helixflow, the source of all magic.
A dazzling debut with magical places, creatures and gemstones, plus a compelling heroine young readers will love.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.
Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.
Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?
With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.