Killian offers a debut fantasy adventure novel reminiscent of such popular YA series as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.
Like the aforementioned books, this novel features a young, strong central character who learns of hidden strengths and powers. The biggest difference is that college-aged Madeline is a bit older than her counterparts. At the funeral of a longtime family friend, a strange figure, Rabbi Moshire, convinces her to attend tiny Lisuex University in Colorado. Lured by a free education, she finds that her talent for linguistics is just a hint of her real powers—although she spends much of the novel wondering exactly what those powers are. A Russian priest named Vadim keeps watch on her, and as she learns about how Lisuex is a magical place, she also learns that she’s in danger from outside forces. Killian has created strong characters in Madeline, Vadim and Moshire, and the believable relationships between them and the supporting cast are intriguing enough to keep the story moving. But there are times when Killian hides important elements that should be clearer. For example, when Madeline meets her initial academic mentor, Brother Smith, and her fellow student Ling, they all have a contentious conversation—but readers only get it secondhand, when Madeline talks about it later on the phone; as a result, readers don’t get to see Madeline’s key first impressions of Brother Smith and Ling. Similarly, just when Rabbi Moshire is about to explain an important plot point, Killian cuts away from the scene; in the next chapter, Madeline thinks about the same conversation, but readers don’t get to see how Moshire tried to sell a particular idea to Madeline and how she reacted in the moment.
An engaging, if somewhat flawed, story set in a well-realized world.