An overheated debut mixes high-stakes ballet education with the occult.
Fifteen-year-old Vanessa, though astonishingly gifted, didn’t apply to the ultraprestigious New York Ballet Academy because she wants a career in dance—she did it in the hope of finding her older sister, Margaret, who disappeared from the school after being cast as the Firebird as a freshman three years ago. Once at NYBA, she draws the attention of choreographer Josef and two senior boys, the obnoxious Justin and the lustrous-eyed Zeppelin (a name so hilariously unballetic it could only have been meant ironically—except it seems not to be). It will surprise no one except the catty senior girls that Vanessa is cast as the Firebird, just as her sister was before….Vanessa’s investigation proceeds in fits and starts; irritatingly, an early mystical warning she receives during a hazing incident is dropped. That she does not recall this while rehearsing the mysterious “Danse du Feu” in an underground studio whose charred walls are interrupted only by the white silhouettes of dancers, one of whom resembles Margaret and that sometimes seem to dance with her, will have readers grinding their teeth. A lengthy midsection devolves into a rushed and chaotic conclusion that turns out to be little more than a setup for a sequel.
Care and attention to details of the ballet cannot compensate for slipshod plotting; both balletomanes and urban-fantasy fans should look elsewhere. (Urban fantasy. 13-16)