This teen fantasy debut stars a girl who learns she’s a werewolf with ties to a parallel world of magic.
Tomboy Sheila Domino, of Alexandria, Louisiana, is turning 15. She and her best friend, Regina “Gina” Mallory, aren’t terribly popular at Sullivan High School, so they celebrate the occasion with a party for two. While the girls share some weed and gossip about Aron, Sheila’s crush, monstrous werewolves (or devil dogs) crash into Gina’s bedroom. Just as suddenly, the girls are saved by a shotgun-toting man named Agog. During the melee, however, Sheila herself transforms into an “ugly, hairy wolf-girl.” Agog then uses magical dust to open a portal, allowing them to escape. They land in Thera—a vibrant world of oversized animals and strange weather. Agog explains that the dark angel Demarchus has ravaged Thera and its people, but a prophecy foretells that the Chosen One—a female lycan—will save the land from destruction. Sheila resists her role as the Chosen One. After the trio’s quest to find a seer goes awry, the girls escape back to the real world. Unfortunately, chaos awaits their return. The home of Sheila’s foster parents, the Kleins, is aflame, and evidence points to forces in Thera still out to destroy the young lycan. Author Caldwell’s debut is masterfully paced, and Sheila is painted as a genuine outsider with lines like, “I’d rather cannonball into the Mississippi River than purchase a tube of lipstick.” Thera, meanwhile, is a fabulous place featuring dragons, “rain the size of small watermelons,” and the matriarchal Caladium tribe. In the narrative’s second half, Thera is explored more fully, and Sheila’s search for the powerful Golden Sapphire folds her urban-fantasy origin into a larger sword-and-sorcery tale. Throughout, the cast expands with the winged Canaan and Mamma Geneva, who knows that “God won’t put nothing on your plate that you can’t eat.” Though the prose is always vivid, typos are sometimes distracting (“His course body”). Caldwell nevertheless satisfies with a bustling, compact work that leaves room for a sequel.
An energetic, brightly imagined fantasy debut.