Two teenagers learn that they’re Phoenixes in Hale’s debut YA fantasy novel, the first in a planned series.
Garrett, an Irish teen raised in an orphanage, has little else that’s unusual about him, aside from his extraordinary good looks. But when his beloved aunt passes away, she leaves him a modest fortune and a letter telling him of a journey he must undertake. On that trip to the Himalayas, he learns that the mythological Phoenix is real and that he’s one of only two pure-blood, superpowered Phoenixes left in the world. The other is 17-year-old Lisle, who lives with her wealthy grandfather in British Columbia, and shortly before he dies, he tells Lisle the secret. Garrett and Lisle eventually meet to learn more about their responsibilities as the last of their line, and they soon must defend themselves against those seeking to steal their powers and end the pure-blood Phoenixes for good. As Lisle becomes familiar with her new abilities, including “power of foresight and the power to apprehend,” she becomes torn between Garrett and a “normal” boy from school who loves her. Hale develops the Phoenixes’ mythology and history well, tying it into The Aeneid and well-known Greco-Roman legends, and the teenage leads are charming and likable. However, despite the book’s unique central concept, the plot is very slow moving; the first two-thirds consists of mostly dialogue with relatively little action. Garrett and Lisle are also both surprisingly willing to accept what their elders tell them about the Phoenixes and their roles in the world. The structure, which alternates chapters between Garrett and Lisle, works well at first, but the short chapters start to feel choppy after the characters meet. As the action ramps up near the end, readers may also find that some twists rely on overly convenient plot devices.
An uneven YA effort, but the appealing characters and mythology may compel readers to continue with the series.