In the prequel to O’Neale’s (Eternal Sacrifice, 2016, etc.) fantasy series, a prince from a world of elementals must decide whether he can kill an innocent 15-year-old princess in order to save his court.
Prince Rowan’s relationship with his mother, Queen Prisma, is all but destroyed. For unknown reasons, she’s exiled Rowan to the world of mortals, while she rules the fire court in their parallel world of Avalon. But Prisma sends Rowan’s best friend, Marcus, to bring him back to Avalon with the promise that she’ll give up her throne. Rowan is skeptical, certain that Prisma will want something from him in exchange. Sadly, he’s right: Rowan will only get the throne if he kills, the daughter of King Taron of the air court. Kalin is half-human, living with her mortal mother in Baltimore, but Prisma believes the teenage girl is the next akasha—a rare, powerful being who can wield power over all four elements. Rowan and Marcus travel back to the mortal world via a portal with plans to assassinate Kalin, whom knights are protecting; they’re invisible to mortals, thanks to a cloaking spell called a “glamour.” But Rowan quickly has doubts about the mission, as he finds himself smitten with the red-haired girl he’s been assigned to kill. Disobeying the queen, however, will have dire results for both Rowan and his friend. O’Neale treads familiar terrain in this story, which has several elements that are reminiscent of the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. But the author packs plenty of plot and characters into the novella; the brisk story introduces various creatures (including shape-shifting “gabriel hounds,” like Marcus) and some romance (Marcus fancies an air elemental named Ariel). There’s also lots of tension, as killing Kalin has the potential to ignite a war. The well-established villains pave the way for appearances in later series installments. O’Neale’s unadorned prose successfully fuses the real world with the fantastical Avalon; Rowan’s first-person narration, for example, is rife with down-to-earth descriptions (“she seemed even more pissed than I’d envisioned”) and the go-to interjection “man.”
A winsome, energetic series preamble for new and returning readers.