This story starts very well, with the intriguing scene of a mystery man bringing an infant to the doorstep of a Texas couple in a snowstorm, and abandoning the child there. Yes, it’s been done from Tom Jones to Harry Potter – but it always grabs you. Who is the child? Will it be cared for?
The answer in this case is: Emily, from another world where she has been torn by some unknown catastrophe from her family and twin brother (another trope that never grows old: twins); and the Whaynes care for her very well indeed, providing her with every conceivable extracurricular activity as she grows older. Although in that they are helped by the paediatrician Andrew Dalton, who saves Emily’s life when she’s still a baby, and who becomes her devoted Godfather and mentor, and who also happens to be a magician from her home planet.
So Emily races between fencing, martial arts, swimming and horseriding, and is naturally outstanding at every one. Plus she also has developing magical powers, and her godfather’s role is to train her in magic and lore, preparing her for the future and trials to come.
So the story segues between high school type problems with boys and rivals, to times with Yoda-like godfather, to an increasingly engaging federal agency crowd looking out for Emily but maybe governed by sinister presidential motives (the president also has an adopted son with powers, hm), to an evil magician called Samil who is raising a gorgeous female warrior queen from the dead to become his half-dead vampire partner. And of course his henchman are also on earth, after Emily.
I suppose the story builds quite slowly, and virtually nothing is resolved, but I was never bored. The author has a fluid, often incredibly vivid writing style that is overwhelmingly a pleasure to read, despite perhaps a little overwriting – saying the same thing twice, in this case, or over-attributing dialogue. I think authors generally should stop themselves using adverbs as qualifiers eg: he yelled angrily. Let the dialogue speak for itself, use stronger verbs, use beats of action. And avoid teased, joked, quipped as a general rule altogether: they stink. If someone tells a joke, it needs to be funny. We don’t need to be told he joked: that implies we wouldn’t know otherwise, ie he’s failed in the attempt. But that’s a personal pet peeve. This is a good link (random) for those interested in decent dialogue:
Even though it could have done with a tighter edit in that respect, it was still a pleasure to read. I enjoyed Emily’s evolving into a confident young warrior woman. She seems to have jumped from the frying pan into the fire –¬ from earth to her home planet Acacia, full of half-dead enemies, powerful magicians and fierce creatures. I’m rather anxious that she plans to go to Bashan to learn, and Bashan is the home of the evil Samir who uses students he doesn’t like as food for his half-deads. Silly students, that’ll learn you how to behave in class.
Xena the bondmate Doberman is a highlight, and the world of Acacia, plus the magical system, is very well realized and beautifully described.
If I’m going to pick – it seems a bit strange that Emily trots back to the stables after a running gun battle and multiple deaths on her horse-riding run, between opposing teams set to grab her. And she still goes happily about her extra-curricular activities while ever-increasing teams of agents sit in black vans outside on the street – but she can still stroll out the back door with her dog for a walk and no one notices. Numbers don’t seem to translate to vigilance in this case. So those parts strain credulity a little. But not enough to spoil the read, great fun.
If you like fantasy, and not just YA fantasy, this one is a winner.