An 18-year-old battles paranormal fiends in Atwood’s all-action YA debut.
Kacey Alexander lives in Woodland Falls, a once-happy city, now taken over by Olympus Security and run as a criminal enterprise. On her 18th birthday, she inherits a mysterious chest from her mother. It’s been four years since Kacey’s mom died, and although she’s tried to follow in her parent’s adventurous footsteps, she certainly isn’t expecting what’s inside the chest: knives and an illustrated journal. Meanwhile, Kacey’s best friend, Aidan, owns up to his ability to wield magic powers (as well as his longtime crush on Kacey); and as a further birthday surprise, the journal reveals that Kacey was born with the powers of a Mage, which were suppressed while she was a child but now are about to come into full effect. Kacey is shocked by these discoveries, but she puts them aside long enough to go and celebrate her birthday—only to come face to fang with her first vampire and thrown headlong into the brutal, if sometimes-beautiful, world of magic-wielding Sentinels. Conflicts between characters flare up without warning and settle down just as abruptly; Kacey’s first-person narration evinces these mood shifts, but her use of generic similes (“glowing like the embers of a dying fire”; “his green eyes shone like emeralds”) will dishearten readers who thrive on more vigorous prose. Still, there’s much else to like in Atwood’s imaginings. The paranormal elements have been thought out in depth, and they could easily form the basis for a TV series in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There’s a likable supporting cast, each with a back story and narrative potential, while Kacey herself is a sassy but socially responsible high school graduate who banters as well as she fights. The book may particularly appeal to fans of graphic novels looking for something more substantive. Overall, Atwood shows an unwavering devotion to kick-ass action and taking a stand against corporate (and inhuman) bad guys.
A creative, if unevenly written, piece of new-adult escapism for devotees of the dark realms.