The Forever Man (W.A.R.P., #3) by Eoin Colfer

A Slightly Confusing Ending to Another Fun Colfer Series

the forever manWhere time travel is concerned, things are always going to get a little wibbily wobbly timey wimey, as Doctor Who might say. Colfer does not spend a significant amount of time exploring the details and complexities, which is perhaps why I found myself a little confused by what exactly happened. While it was made clear that changes made to the past can impact the future and alter reality, but in what way or how extensively is never really made clear. On the upside, Colfer knows how to have fun with his writing and with talking dogs, ghostly scientists, and a magician’s assistant, this book does not fail to deliver on that count.

Riley is an orphan raised as the assistant to a magician-turned-assassin Albert Garrick in Victorian London. With the help of of time-traveling FBI agent Chevie Savano, from the 21st century, he was able to free himself from his master and become a famous magician. But now Garrick is back, and thanks to the wormhole he was trapped in, he is stronger and more dangerous than ever. And he wants revenge.

Things seem hopeless when Chevie and Riley find themselves in trapped in the 1600s and Garrick has the run of the town. Thanks to a quirk in the time tunnel that sent them there, Chevie finds herself with cat-eyes and Garrick uses this to accuse her of being a witch. The punishment: death.

With the help of some unlikely allies–the town drunkard, a talking dead, and the ghost of a scientist Riley and Chevie have see die twice–Riley must rescue Chevie before she dies a gruesome death at Garrick’s hands.

Chevie and Riley make for an entertaining, wisecracking pair. Together, they find a sense of family and happiness that they had been missing for most their lives. It is easy to root for their success against the out-of-his-mind villainy of Garrick. This series isn’t quite at the level of Artemis Fowl cleverness, but fans of Colfer will not be disappointed either. I would have liked more on the rules of time travel and the effects of the time tunnel in this particular story because the rules differ in ever series and knowing how they work makes believing the universe of the story easier. Because of this confusion, it was a little unclear to me where Chevie and Riley end up at the very end of the story.

As always, Colfer delivers and I am excited to see what he comes up with next.

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5 Books If You Love Norse Mythology

A Trip to Valhalla Has Never Been More Fun

Greek and Roman mythology have been popular in children’s tales for a while now, thanks in no small part to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Other mythology, on the other hand, has been in much sparser supply. But readers who find themselves more interested in Thor and Odin than Zeus and Poseidon can have hope. Norse mythology is on the rise.

1. Valkyrie by Kate O’Hearn

valkyrie

As the youngest of the Valkyries, Freya has always been different. And not just because she was born with jet-black feathers. Where her fellow-Valkyries love their responsibilities, she is anything but thrilled to officially become one of the reapers of the valiant dead. Growing up around battlefields and reveling warriors, it’s no wonder that Freya finds humankind disdainful. But when she reaps her first soldier, he turns out to be nothing like the mead-drinking, fight-loving men she expected. Instead, he is a man desperate to get back to his family and help keep them safe. Freya agrees to find his wife and children, even though it means crossing to Midgard (Earth) without permission and losing her wings if she is discovered. What she finds there is nothing like she expected–the humans remember little about the Norse gods and the world is more than a battlefield. But can she fulfill her mission before she’s missed in Valhalla.

2. Loki’s Wolves (The Blackwell Pages, #1)  by K.L. Armstrong

blackwell

Matt has always known he’s a descendant of the god, Thor. In fact, just about everyone in the town of Blackwell, South Dakota is a descendant of Thor or Loki. But where his brothers are perfect examples of what a Thorsson should be–tough, physical, and competitive–Matt has always felt like the runt of the family. Which is why he’s so surprised to discover that he has been named Thor’s champion. Together with Loki descendants and fellow classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke, Matt must go on a quest to find Thor’s hammer and shield, build a team of god’s descendants, and find a way to prevent the coming Ragnarok–the end of the world. But to succeed, Matt must learn who his friends are, who to trust, and how to use the abilities that being Thor’s champion and descendant grants him. More importantly, he must learn to have faith in himself.

3. The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1) by Rick Riordan

magnus chase

Following in the vein of Riordan’s Percy Jackson and The Kane Chronicles comes Magnus Chase, a teen who has been living on streets since his mother’s mysterious murder by a pack of wolves. When he is tracked down by his uncle, a man his mother had always said was dangerous, his entire life changes. Or rather, his entire life ends. And starts again. Because it turns out that the Norse myths are very real and Magnus is the son of a Norse god. Upon his death, Magnus finds himself in (Hotel) Valhalla as an einherji, one of the noble dead. There he is in the ways of war and battle in order to fight a coming war for the gods. Magnus must find the Sword of Summer, which hasn’t been seen in generations. As a bonus to fans of his pervious series, Magnus Chase is set in the same universe as Riordan’s Greek-, Roman-, and Egyptian-inspired tales, with a special guest appearance by a key figure in the Percy Jackson series.

4. The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB by Adam Shaughnessy

fib

Prudence “Pru” Potts is mourning the death of her father with hostility and holding everyone at arm’s length. Finding a letter–which no one else seems able to see–with the question “What is the unbelievable FIB?” may be just the distraction she needs. Only one other kid can see the card: new kid ABE. ABE shares Pru’s love of puzzles (which she inherited from her detective father). Together they manage to unravel the clue on the card and meet the mysterious Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox recruits Pru and ABE to help investigate the reason that Norse beings have been sneaking into the town, causing thunderstorms and dark skies. ABE and Pru must track down the Eye of Odin, the source of knowledge, before a dangerous enemy can destroy the realms of both the humans and the gods. But she has to uncover truth and lies about the world around her and learn who she can trust.

5. Frostborn (Thrones and Bones, #1) by Lou Anders

frostbornThe biggest difference between this series and the others on this list is that it is less overtly steeped in Norse mythology. Instead, it is a more subtle, Viking-inspired tale with frost giants, wyverns, and the undead. Karn is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard but he is much more interested in playing the strategy game Thrones and Bones, much to his parents’ chagrin. Thianna is a half-human, half-giantess, who at seven feet tall has always felt self-conscious about her height (she’s much too short to be a proper giant). When the two are forced to go on the run due to unexpected drama from their families’ pasts, they are lucky enough to find each other. Relying on each other’s strength, skills, and cleverness, the duo must navigate a world of dangers that includes trolls, dragons, and dwarves while uncovering the truth about their families’ pasts.

 

Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Good and Evil is More than the Light and Dark Side

star warsHow do good people come to commit great acts of evil? Does that make them evil in turn? These are the questions that Star Wars has always concerned itself with. But where it normally tells the story of the Jedi and how emotions can tip the scales and lead a hero to the Dark Side (“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda), this story, like the newest movie, The Force Awakens, concerns itself with the Imperial forces that so often serve as nameless, faceless troops.

Cienna Ree is a poor girl from the planet Jelucan. She is one of the valley-folk who believe hard work, honor, and an oath are the highest of all callings. Thane Kyrell is a second-waver, from a rich, self-important family that has never cared much for him. They may be from the same planet, but they might as well be from different worlds. If not for the fact that the two share one dream, one love: flying. They form an unlikely friendship, built on the desire to become pilots. Together they practice, building each other up, so that one day they can fly for the Empire, which seeks to bring order and stability to the galaxy.Mostly, Thane just wants to fly and escape his cruel family. Cienna believes the Empire can bring aid to those in need and wants to bring honor to her family. Thanks to their joint training, the pair not only get accepted into an elite Imperial Academy, they excel. They become first in their year and upon graduation are given important postings. But as they serve, their paths diverge. Thane becomes disillusioned with the Empire as he sees the destruction and devastation it creates while Cienna remains steadfast to her oath to serve and rages against the rebels that kills someone she cares for. When Cienna and Thane end up on opposite sides, can their love for each other and their inner goodness overcome everything that threatens to tear them apart?

I have read a number of Star Wars books over the years, but this might be my favorite. Cienna and Thane are both well-defined, real people who are relatable and easy to root for. Even as they make bad choices, you hope they will be able to see their mistakes and make up for them. In some ways they remain naive even as they reach the point where they should be jaded, but where it can be a turn-off in other stories, there is something endearing about this quality in Cienna and Thane.  This book puts a face on the nameless masses that help the Empire reach its great successes and shows how they might have come to fight for a tyrant.

The only thing that ruined my reading experience was the fact that I kept trying to figure out how everything fit into the bigger Star Wars universe. The back-of-book summary promises some sneak peeks into the new movie and I could not help but scrutinize every new character, every ship, every incident to see if I could  figure out what pieces would be relevant. Is there a character with the last name Ree or Kyrell? What about Windrider? Should I have heard of the planet Jelucan or the ship Mighty Oak Apocalypse? The questions were distracting and made it harder to stay in the mindset of the book. The exact timeline of the book is not laid out clearly in comparison to the cinematic universe. It took a lot to decipher when things in the book lined up with events in the movie. It was almost like a puzzle that I would have liked to spent less time solving, but it was not enough to keep me from enjoying Lost Stars anyway.

A Frozen Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick

A Deeper Look Into Disney’s Frozen

A_Frozen_HeartBy now most people know the story of Anna and Elsa of Arendelle. As children, the sisters are inseparable. Their favorite games involve playing in the snow generated by Elsa’s ice powers. But when a slip puts Anna’s life in danger, the sisters’ parents separate the girls. Anna’s memories of Elsa’s magic are removed, the gates of the castle are closed to visitors, and the girls grow up in isolation from everyone, including each other. At Elsa’s coronation years later, her magic is revealed, turning Arendelle’s summer into “eternal winter.” Elsa runs away to the mountains and Anna chases after her, determined to repair their relationship and bring back summer.

How interesting a book’s adaptation of a movie is depends on how much more it can tell readers beyond what they already know. While it is clear from Frozen that Anna’s isolation growing up makes her desperate to connect to other people–explaining why she fell so quickly for Hans–the rest of her thoughts are mostly hidden behind her bubbly exterior. How does she feel about Elsa keeping secrets from her? What is she really thinking when she meets Hans? Beyond Anna, a big question of the movie is how Hans became cruel and conniving. These questions and more are answered in A Frozen Heart, which tells the movie’s story with alternating chapters from Hans and Anna’s perspectives.

The book, while providing a few additional scenes and insights into Anna’s story, does not give us much more than we already know. Overall, Anna remains the cheerful, quirky character we know and love. There is one particular detail that I appreciate most: while she seems all-in with Hans in the movie, the book shows us something more complicated. There is clearly desperation behind her choice. After the coronation, the castle gates will be closed again. If she doesn’t meet the man of her dreams now, how will she ever find love? With that perspective in mind, it makes sense that she takes this chance, even if she does not know Hans well.

While we get little more about Anna than we already knew, A Frozen Heart gives Hans a backstory. As Anna grows up hidden behind the castle walls in Arendelle, Hans is stuck in the shadow of his twelve older brothers. Taking the lead from their father, the brothers bully Hans relentlessly. They insult him, throw things at him, and generally make his life miserable. Given his childhood, Hans looks for any chance he can to get away from the Southern Isles. His best chance comes in the form of Arendelle’s future queen. If he can get to Elsa’s coronation and make her fall in love with him, he can get away from his family forever. After all, his father would not deny him a pairing that would be beneficial for the kingdom. When he accidentally connects with Anna instead of her sister, he must rethink his plans a bit to get himself on the throne. While Hans’s motivation makes some sense, the level of cruelty he displays towards Anna at the end does seem out of character for this Hans. In movie we do not know him well enough to judge. Here, we see him actively trying not to be a brute like his siblings and having a soft spot for Anna.

This is not a book for those hoping to find a whole new take on Frozen, though it is a fun visit for those who are not quite ready to leave Arendelle behind. Personally, I would have liked to see Elsa’s perspective as well. How did she feel about being isolated from her sister? What must it have taken to constantly turn Anna away? Was she truly happy at the top of the mountain? What did she do all day in her room growing? Did she ever think of running away? A Frozen Heart  did not answer all my questions, but I love Frozen enough that this was good enough.

A North Shore Story by Dean Economos and Alyssa Machinis

a north shore storyTelling the story of a group of teens with a lot to hide, A North Shore Story feels a lot like Gossip Girl, without the seemingly-omniscient blogger to spoil things at the most inopportune times. Where the story struggles most is in the focus. There are a lot of characters to cover in a very short space.

It became fairly difficult to tell the characters apart or remember who had what issues. While it didn’t feel like any one issue or struggle was unrealistic, the sheer number of them was overwhelming – some characters struggled with unrequited crushes, other had to face cheating boyfriends, others worried about money troubles, others struggled with having a friend surpass them, still others dealt with unfair accusations. It just seems like a lot for a single group of friends to deal with all at once.

Any one or two of these issues could have served as an entire story, being delved into more deeply so we could truly get to know the people involved. Instead, we got a lot of “telling not showing” about how people felt, and we did not get to see many characters’ motivations.

The story has the foundation for a deeper look into the lives of teenagers. What it needs now is more character development and more focus so that it can get the readers invested.

Secrets of Neverak (A Tale of Light and Shadow #1) by Jacob Gowans

neverakWhen I read the first book in this series, I was skeptical. It was described as a fantasy book, yet did not really seem to contain, much, if any, fantasy. Instead, it felt more like a love story set in some vaguely historical time period (no computers or technology but not located anywhere familiar). It turns out that the first–which was also an enjoyable read though it didn’t really feel like my genre–was more like set up for a much bigger, more fanastical follow up.

Secrets of Never really picked up in the areas where I felt the first book was lacking. The fantasy elements were real and tangible, but not overwhelming. We learn that there is a Seer who can predict possible futures and help manipulate events (as well as perform some unique spell craft, which we have only scratched the surface on), there are magical artifacts that can curse or provide gifts to people, and there is a type of magic called “The Path of Lyrial” that can be passed down via a type of blessing. There are ghosts and other haunting beings and supernatural creatures such as dragons.

The characters were given room to grow and develop into multi-dimensional characters. The most interesting thing about many of the main characters is that they are allowed to be flawed–Henry has too much pride and holds himself accountable for ever misstep whether or not he had anything to do with it, Maggie can be cruel and lash out when hurt and tends to be critical and judge harshly, James is afraid to open up to people because of a heart break in his past that has left him distant and cold, and Ruther is addicted to gambling and drinking which often gets him into trouble. Isabelle, who spent much of book one unconscious, finally gets her own storyline where we can see her strength of character and resourcefulness and understand why Henry loves her so much. While I would like to see her be more multi-dimensional like the others (of all the characters she is the only one who is too perfect and has no identifiable character flaws as yet), it was nice to finally get to know her. Even the evil emperor and his general have distinct characters quirks that bring them to life.

As the story progresses, it is clear that there is a much bigger picture than any of the involved characters realize. They have unwittingly been drawn into the midst of a battle that goes beyond two kingdoms fighting for power and of which we have only seen the smallest inklings so far. This series has a lot more to give and if book 2 is any indication, book 3 will be even better.

Resist (Resistance Trilogy #2) by Tracy Lawson

The frequency of terrorist attacks in the United States has led to the creation of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense. Slowly, the OCSD has made life safer for the American people–by controlling all aspects of their lives from food to schooling to travel. If people don’t congregate, they won’t become a target. But when the OCSD releases a new treatment meant to protect the public against airborne chemical attacks, things begin to look suspicious. Former high school sports star Tommy and current college student Careen soon find themselves tangled up in a resistance group bent on stopping the OCSD from accomplishing its real goal: Power. Together they manage to shake the American people’s faith in the OCSD, but the battle is not over. Careen finds herself a wanted criminal and the face of the rebellion while Tommy struggles to reconnect with the parents he thought he had lost and to find his place in the fight. But being part of the resistance bring its own set of challenges. Can everyone be trusted? What should be sacrificed for the sake of freedom?

The concept of this series is a powerful one because it seems only just outside the realm of possibility. What would people give up for the promise of safety? Quite a lot, according to this series, whether they realize it or not.

There were two main issues I’ve had thus far in the series. The first has to do with the OCSD’s master plan. In a bid to gain power, the OCSD convinced the public that an airborne terrorist attack was imminent and began giving the people the drug in phases. Phase one was a sort of LSD-type drug that made people hallucinatate and dependent on the government to help them survive. Phase two weakened their wills so that they became highly susceptive to instructions and orders. Phase three…total control? I’m not entirely clear on what the third phase was meant to do, the plan having been foiled by Tommy, Careen, and the rebellion. This supposed antidote is where the plot sort of loses me. I find it hard to believe that those who were on a placebo drug (employees whose jobs were deemed essential services) would not have noticed that drugged-out behavior of their friends, family, and neighbors. Wouldn’t it have led to a significant number of accidents, injuries, and deaths? I can buy the idea of people willingly allowing many of their rights to be stripped for the sake of safety. I can buy a corrupt government department scheming for power. I’m just not sure this particular plan makes any sense. In book 2, the OCSD has been exposed and embarrassed and yet somehow it seems to mostly be running (with some issues that have more to do with the post office than anything else).

The second issue I’ve had is in the characters. I want to get to know them better, to understand more about their motivations. And I want them to be more active. So much of book 1 had Tommy and Careen on phase one and so much of book 2 had them mostly following orders and reacting to events happening elsewhere. I also wanted to be more invested in their relationship, but that requires seeing them together–truly together, when not on drugs. I think book 3 will see some of this, as this is the final showdown and the characters will have to take a stand in some way or another.

Where Resist shined was in showing that nothing is black and white. It isn’t as simple as the OCSD is evil and the rebellion is good. Much in the way that The Hunger Games made us question Alma Coin, book two in the series makes us question the members of the rebellion. Each person has slightly different desires–glory, love, recognition, philosophy–and those differing goals call into question who the good guys and the bad guys are in this story. If you love that ambiguity, this is the story for you.

Seeker (Book #1) by Arwen Elys Dayton

Seeker

Quin, together with her cousin, Shinobu, and John, the boy she loves, has spent her childhood training for her birthright under the tutelage of her cruel father. The three of them come from a long line of Seekers, sworn to help humankind with special training and unique tools that allow them to travel the world in the blink of an eye. But there is a lot Quin doesn’t know about the Seekers  and her family’s past. When she finally takes her oath to become a Seeker, she discovers that much of what she believed about the Seekers and John are untrue. She is forced to commit terrible acts. When an attack on her home enables her to escape, she must come to terms with her actions, the Seekers, and the boy she loves, and find a way to reclaim the noble purpose that the Seekers were intended for.

There are some strong elements to the story that make it engaging and interesting:

  • an ancient order that has been corrupted because of its power (two ancient orders, in fact, but the Seekers are the primary group)
  • a complicated dynamic between Quin and her mother, who washed out of Seeker training and seems to have a miserable marriage that leads her to incessant drinking
  • a dangerous weapon called a disruptor that drives a person into a permanent, torturous coma that all Seekers fear but must learn to stand against
  • a whipsword that the Seekers use, which can reshape itself into any weapon
  • the process of globe hopping via an athame that takes them into a sort of hole in the fabric of the world where they can lose themselves if they aren’t careful

Despite these things, I had a number of issues with the book, including its structure (it felt like two books forced into one), a lack of character development (their actions often felt like “this helps the plot or conflict progress but doesn’t really make sense in regards to what’s been established by their character or even just in general), and a lack of focus (there is a secondary plot about an order called the Dreads that is introduced halfway through the book that competes with the main story but feels superfluous).

The structure of the book seemed like one of the more unnecessary problems . Considering that this is the first book in a series, it seems like making this two separate books would have made more sense. The first half, designated “Part One,” focusing on the time when Quin is training, taking her oath, discovering her father’s lies, and has her home more or less destroyed are one story that could have filled its own book. The second half, “Part Two,” taking place after the attack, when Quin and her cousin and fellow Seeker Shinobu have escaped and established new lives for themselves only to have their old lives catch up with them feels like it should have been its own story. Both parts of this story don’t seem to get the development and attention they deserve, making it feel like we are missing something. Some of the mysteries of the story (like why the athame is so all-important) feel more like there just wasn’t time to explain them, not that they are being strategically being kept for a big reveal later.

The lack of character development is due to a few different elements. We are told that Quin’s father Briac is cruel and overly-harsh, but much of this is relayed to us via the characters discussing how mean he can be, not by showing him being mean. (Later we discover that he has corrupted the legacy of the Seekers and uses it for his own purposes, but this revelation comes very late and isn’t really clear until almost the end of the book.) The prime example of his cruelty is that he does not seem to want John to become a Seeker, for reasons unclear. But one of the first things we are shown is that John cannot overcome his fear in the face of the disruptor. This seems like a very real and very clear reason for him not to be a made a Seeker, even if the bias were not a factor. If the book had been split into two books, with the first one spending more time on their training and interactions with Briac, as well as more about Shinobu’s relationship with his father Mariko, who is also a Seeker, we would have had the time to get to know everyone better. We also would have gotten to know John and Quin’s relationship more, because it did not seem very developed or realistic.

The lack of focus is in part the disjointed first a second half, but it is also the introduction of the Dreads. In the first half, they are essentially a couple mysterious people who are there to swear in new Seekers and enforce certain rules of the order. It is clear they have incredible abilities such as moving at super speed. Suddenly in the second half of the book we start getting Maud’s perspective. She is the youngest of the Dreads–there are three, the Old Dread, Middle Dread, and Young Dread–and questions much of what she sees. The Dreads, who lives for hundreds of years, are meant to be impartial, but Maud questions where they fulfill this requirement. She questions who she should be aligned with and who she should obey. She is perhaps the most interesting element of the story, but it also doesn’t feel like a true part of the story. Instead it feels like it was added in order to make it easier for other things to happen for the main characters. If anything, it felt like it could have (maybe should have) been a companion novel.

I don’t feel like I know the characters well enough to really root for them. I’m not sure if I will be picking up book two.

Project ELE by Rebecca Gober and Courtney Nuckels

Project ELE tells about a time when a virus has wiped out a large number of the population and the Earth’s temperature is rising to uninhabitable temperatures. Fifteen-year-old Willow Mosby must leave her life (and much of her family) behind and go into a F.E.M.A. shelter to survive. What she finds there are friends, love, amazing new abilities, and unexpected danger.

I was surprisingly disappointed by this book, which is the first in a series. There is a lot of promise in the idea (as someone who likes dystopian novels and stories about people with “powers”), but the execution was lacking:

– The story is told from Willow’s perspective. I tend to find first person narratives difficult in the best of times (the characters are too in their own heads and they tend to whine a bit too much), but here it was particularly problematic because Willow is perfectly bland. She’s a sweet girl with no real defining traits. Reading the story from her perspective didn’t make me feel closer to the action and it didn’t add to the experience. She didn’t have unique insights (by contrast, Cia from The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau had unique observations about the people around her and what their behavior might indicate, which was why I found it so enjoyable) and her thought process was never clear enough for me to relate to why she did some of the things she did.

– Considering that half of Willow’s family will likely die while she is in the relative safety of the shelter, she does not think about these family members very often. I could believe this more in a third person narrative where we don’t have the character’s inner thoughts and don’t know what she is thinking at all times, but with first person, we should see her thoughts occasionally drift in their direction every so often, even if she pushes them away and doesn’t want to dwell on it.

– It takes too long to get to the point in the story where Willow and her friends discover amazing new abilities. It feels like we spend 2/3 of the book in a standard dystopian novel and then suddenly we are in a superhero story. The shift is disorienting. The special abilities elements needed to be integrated into the story earlier (even with hints and clues) and some of the details before that could have been shortened or cut out to make the story feel more cohesive.

It is very rare for me not to want to finisha book, if only because I like to know what happened, but in this case, I don’t intend to pick up book 2.

The Young Elites (#1) by Marie Lu

young elitesThe Young Elites is about a young noble named Adelina who survived a plague when she was a child, but not unmarked. In addition to losing an eye, her hair has turned white, marking her as a malfetto. Some malfettos have special abilities and are known as the Young Elite. Adelina soon discovers that she has an ability, which soon gets her swept up in a plot to overthrow the king and queen.

Having already read Marie Lu’s Legacy series, I went into the book expecting to enjoy it. Even so, the book had a number of surprises that I was not expecting and deeply appreciated (such as the fate of an important character and the motivation of another). In this regard, the series felt like a step forward in Lu’s writing. The Legacy series did not carry the same level of unexpected turns as this one did, which made the series less predictable. The Legacy series has shown that Lu has no qualms killing off major characters, something more common in YA these days, but not so early in a series. This established high stakes that will only make the series going forward more compelling and unexpected.

I have two main issues with The Young Elites:

First, I think the character of Raffaele was a somewhat unnecessary character. His mentoring of Adelina was important, as was his friendship with Enzo, but he also served an expository function that made some revelations in the book seem too easy. Rather than discover the emotions that Adelina’s magic aligned with, the series simply told us from the start. I think it would have been more powerful to discover this through her actions and experiences instead.

Secondly, we were repeatedly told that Adelina was dark and ambitious (and extension of my first complaint), but very little of what we were shown of her in the book really indicates this. Yes, she made a few questionable choices, but no more so than other characters, including those whose emotions were aligned with “joy” and other more positive emotions. It feels as though the book is trying to convince us that she has darkness within, but mostly fails in the attempt.

That being said, the characters were dynamic, the world believable, and the power-struggle engrossing. I will definitely be reading book two when it comes out.