First things first: If you pick up Sarah Beth Durst’s Chasing Power expecting it to be the next Conjured, you’re going to be disappointed. Of course, that statement holds for ANY other book, regardless of author or hype: Conjured is an absolutely original, beautifully written and intricately crafted genre-bender that is special in every way—perspective, character development, worldbuilding, imagery, love story—as well as showing a profound respect for the intelligence and patience of the audience. But enough about Conjured, right?
Wrong! There can never be enough about Conjured. But, as the two books only really have four things in common—the author, the genre, the gender of the protagonist, and a storyline involving family, secrets, lies and betrayal—I shall move on.
Sixteen-year-old telekinetic Kayla is a seasoned thief. Her mother, Moonbeam, is well-meaning, kind and loving, but she’s not particularly practical, so Kayla makes sure that the bills are paid, and that her go-bag contains an ever-increasing stash of pawnable jewelry. Why does she need a go-bag? Well, she needs a go-bag because her name isn’t really Kayla (and no, her mother’s name isn’t really Moonbeam, either). They’ve been on the run from Kayla’s murderous father for years, and there is no doubt that he won’t rest until he finds them.
Enter Daniel, the teleporting blackmailer. He knows what Kayla can do, and he’s threatened to expose her unless she helps him rescue his mother, who left him a cryptic note just before she was kidnapped: Find the thief. Ask the queen. Remember I love you.
Now, the two of them are bouncing around the world on a madcap quest to find the information and items needed to rescue his mother…if her kidnapper doesn’t kill them first.
Looking at the premise in such broad strokes, I grant you that it sounds silly: I mean, yes, it’s basically a MacGuffin treasure hunt. It’s a fast-paced, read-it-in-one-sitting fantasy adventure romance starring a quick-thinking, strong-willed heroine, but it’s still a MacGuffin treasure hunt.
That’s there’s more to it than that, though. MacGuffin aside, Chasing Power is a story about family—about the cycle of abuse; about sibling rivalry, abandonment and forgiveness; about how secrets kept for the “right” reasons still end up doing harm—and it’s a story about making peace with the fact that you can’t change people. Sometimes, it turns out that someone’s obnoxiousness is a big part of what you love about him; sometimes, you stick around to try to heal a fractured relationship; and sometimes, your best option is to walk away.
All of that is excellent, but the strongest element, hands down, is Kayla’s friendship with Selena. The two girls know each other, they trust each other implicitly—both in terms of judgment and allegiance—and, refreshingly, there’s none of that She’s My Best Friend But I Haven’t Told Her My Most Important Secrets nonsense. Selena KNOWS about Kayla’s telekinesis, she KNOWS about her thieving, and she KNOWS that she’s in hiding. So, when Daniel shows up, we get treated to this joy of a moment:
“This is Daniel. His mother’s been kidnapped, and he’s trying to blackmail me into helping him.”
Since her eyebrows couldn’t shoot up any higher, Selena settled for another exaggerated blink before she scanned Daniel top to toe. “Did he try asking you for help?”
“Nope. Jumped straight to blackmail.”
By the end of the scene, the girls had tag-teamed him into such a state that I almost felt bad for him. (Which isn’t to say that I didn’t laugh out loud at his predicament.)
There are a few instances of repetitive language, a few moments where the dialogue feels wobbly, but in the face of everything else, I brushed that aside. Because, overall? SUPER FUN.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.