In Hewitt’s debut YA fantasy novel, a young woman—part human, part elf—joins a group of mages and warriors in the hope of learning how to use her own magic.
The novel gets into the action on its very first page, when a killer swings a sword at protagonist Sylvia, causing her father, the king of Larenta, to sacrifice himself to rescue her. Sometime after her father’s death, she resurfaces at a country inn with a lot of baggage. She encounters a mage named Gavren traveling with his apprentice, Kyra, and Derik, their warrior companion. They ask Sylvia to join them on their journey, hoping they can find someone to heal the traces of “shadow” left behind from the altercation that killed her father. Sylvia’s reluctant to join them, for good reason: She’s half-elf, with a strain of fairy-elf magic in her blood. The magic is powerful and uncontrollable, and she feels she must keep it from any magic users who might seek to manipulate her. The mage’s party manages to convince her to come along, but Gavren soon proves himself untrustworthy when he takes Sylvia’s box, a magical item left to her by her late mother. During their journey, however, Sylvia forms a grudging, mutual understanding with Gavren and Kyra, and quickly falls in love with Derik, who shares her romantic feelings. As a group, they encounter orcs, soldiers and dragons, some helpful and some harmful, and learn more about Sylvia’s importance in a changing world. Much of the book centers on Sylvia’s growing relationship with Derik and her struggles with intimacy; after her father was killed, Sylvia was at the mercy of a group of soldiers, a fact that haunts her throughout the book. The mage Gavren shows the greatest depth; he manages to be a good guy while also resorting to trickery to learn Sylvia’s secrets. The prose is often awkward, however, relying on repetition and declarations of emotion (“[H]e was so taken by the beautiful woman he was made oblivious to what was happening”), and it may sometimes be hard for readers to follow how one event leads to the next. That said, there’s much to be admired in this book; the fantasy setting leaves a lot to be explored in future installments, and Sylvia’s role within it promises great drama.
An uneven debut fantasy, but its intriguing setting and well-developed characters show promise.