In Dauphin’s (The Turquoise Tattoo, 2012) second installment of her Elementals of Aotearoa trilogy for young adults, an Australian teen who possesses elemental magical powers finds herself surrounded by intrigue, danger and romance in her quest to locate her birthparents and reach her destiny.
After discovering her elemental abilities, complete with electric anger storms and swirling hair, Scarlet struggles to get some sense of her new powers. Despite rules forbidding it, Scarlet magically tattoos the boy she loves, Sterling. The pair continues to quietly tango around their feelings in the wake of a friend’s kidnapping and torture at the hands of a demon, not to mention the taboo resurrection—resurrecting is evidently frowned upon—of Scarlet’s beloved pet. Scarlet must cope not only with her forbidden love for Sterling but with conflicted emotions about her father, the Lizard-god of the Dead. This volume traces Scarlet’s journey to find her birth mother, from whom she inherited the legacy of a Greenstone goddess, a gift that proves to be both a treasure and a curse. Also along for the ride is a new character, the delightfully troublemaking Mer, a distant relative with a hidden agenda, and a returning character, sinister Isaac, a dark figure who hides a tragic secret. While the trilogy’s setting in New Zealand provides an already exotic locale for American readers, the rich, original world of the Elementals, based on Maori culture and myths, provides an even more unfamiliar, exciting backdrop for the story. Despite a seemingly familiar supporting cast—the devoted love interest, the spunky sidekick, the father who lies to protect his daughter, and the quiet, supportive foster mom—Dauphin infuses each character with emotion and complex, sophisticated motives; it’s more J.K. Rowling than Stephenie Meyer. Scarlet’s story barrels forward in an adventure filled with action and suspense, hurtling toward a cliffhanger conclusion. Refreshingly, Dauphin favors plot-driven anguish instead of shallow, unfounded angst, which helps put this series on the upper tier of YA novels.
The thrilling middle episode of a trilogy that delivers authentic character conflict.