In Martin’s debut YA novel, a teenager discovers her supernatural heritage after losing her mother.
Sixteen-year-old Susannah Henika spent her whole life traveling from fair to fair with her mom, never staying in one place for long. When her mother dies suddenly in an automobile accident, it leaves Susannah on her own. Chandler Shaw, the father she’s never known, appears suddenly to scoop her up and deposit her in the lap of luxury—specifically, his mansion on the shores of Big Bear Lake in California. She wants desperately to fit in and win her dad’s love and approval, but her stepmother’s blatant hostility and constant efforts to turn her father against her leave Susannah miserable. A visit from her best friend, Giselle, picks up her spirits, but she becomes uncomfortable when Giselle notices the birthmark on her hand that’s shaped like a wolf in front of a full moon. Giselle soon discovers that the mark is the crest of a Romanian gypsy tribe called the Louvari. Susannah then meets a Romanian painter, Madalina, who takes a strange interest in her. It turns out that Madalina knows the truth about Susannah’s heritage and seeks to protect her from a beast known as the Ruv Bengalo. For the most part, Martin tells an effective story of the supernatural. However, her style is a bit stilted in places; for example, she attempts to inject elements of reality into her world by including scientific explanations, but the result is a bizarre jumble of DNA, magic, oxytocin, and curses. However, her use of minor characters to provide different perspectives is inspired, as it gives readers fresh looks at characters that appeared earlier in the story. Ironically, these minor players are more fleshed out than the major ones; most of the main characters are relatively thin, particularly Madalina and her brother, Luca. Hopefully, the next books in the planned series will be even better.
An intriguing, if flawed, beginning to a new YA series.