Jessamine’s Folly by S.G. Roger

FOLLY
Jessamine’s Folly by S.G. Roger
Publisher: Idunn Court Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Length: Short Story (102 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After her estate is entailed away, Jessamine Foster has no choice but to live with relatives who detest her. When her aunt gives her an ultimatum to leave, Jessamine accepts a position as companion to Lord Kirkendale’s sister—even though she’s been warned her predecessors can’t seem to resist the earl’s exceptional good looks. Can Jessamine manage to hold onto her job without losing her heart?

To honor a promise made to his dying father, Lord Kirkendale agrees to an arranged marriage to a woman he cannot love. Although he is resigned to a life without sentiment, the arrival of his sister’s new companion awakens a slumbering passion. Can he find a way to secure his own happiness without sacrificing his family’s honor, or will his broken promise result in the ruination of the person he loves most?

Sometimes your fate can change in the span of a few heartbeats.

As soon as I read the opening scene, I couldn’t wait to learn what would happen next. A funeral definitely isn’t a typical setting for a young adult novel. It was a good choice for this one, though, as it made me eager to find out what was going on. My first impressions of the characters who attended it were as accurate as they were entertaining.

The title of this book was confusing to me. There were plenty of follies to go around in the plot, but none of them belonged to Jessamine. She was no more responsible for her parents’ death than she was for her reduced station in life afterwards. I never did understand what the author was getting at with this particular title and would have liked to know more about why it was chosen.

Jessamine’s temper problems made me like her even more than I might have otherwise. She came across as an incredibly proper woman for the time and place in which she lived. It was nice to see how she behaved when she wasn’t on her best behavior, though, because it made her so relatable. Sometimes a flaw can seem so large that it’s impossible to imagine what life would be without it. This part of her personality was written well.

It would have been helpful to have more character development in this tale. Everyone other than Jessamine tended to be portrayed in two-dimensional ways. The other characters were either written as good and kind or selfish and cruel. There was little room on either side for the complex emotions, behaviors, or motivations that I would have preferred to see.

Amelie, the young woman that Jessamine is hired to chaperone, was a highlight of this story for me. Her sharp sense of humor made me smile more than once. I especially enjoyed the scenes that involved Jessamine’s conversations with her. Their friendship was as warm as it was genuine.

I’d recommend Jessamine’s Folly to anyone in the mood for something romantic and historical.

The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery by R.M. Clark

FIELD
The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery by R.M. Clark
Publisher: MB Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (130 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Twelve-year-old April O’Day’s summer has gotten off to a flying start. As the new bat retriever for the Harpoons, her hometown’s minor league team, she’s fetching bats and doling out great advice to players and coaches alike. In a word, she’s becoming indispensable. But mysterious things are happening at Haney Field, which April and her best friend – and fellow baseball enthusiast – Darren Plummer are determined to uncover. As they quickly learn, this is no ordinary season. In fact, it’s a whole new ball game.

Sometimes the past refuses to stay buried.

I liked April immediately. It was nice to meet a young adult character who doesn’t have any special powers or access to magical devices. April is quite well-read for her age, but other than that she’s a completely ordinary girl who has to rely on her own intelligence and resourcefulness to figure out what’s happening on Haney field.

It seemed odd to me that April had such a hard time finding out more information about the Negro Leagues at first. It would have made more sense a generation or two ago, but the Internet is full of people who are avid fans of all kinds of things. I’ve discovered blogs and websites about much more obscure historical events than this one. This is a minor criticism of an otherwise compelling story though.

The baseball glossary was a nice touch. I know almost nothing about that sport and would have had some trouble figuring out what certain characters were talking about without it. The concepts it discusses seem to be fairly basic, but it’s a good tool for those of us who need that kind of refresher.

The age recommendation for this tale needs an explanation. April is twelve, but she comes across as someone younger than that because of what she is and is not interested in. Eight is the youngest age I’d recommend this book to, though, due to some paranormal themes that might be a little too frightening for younger readers.

The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery is a great choice for anyone who loves baseball or a spooky ghost story. I had a good time reading it and will be recommending it family members and young friends in this age range!

Scarlet Winters by J. Kwong

WINTERS
Scarlet Winters by J. Kwong
The Berona Chronicles, Book 1
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (114 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Welcome to the city of Berona – a city governed by four Superheroes with great superpowers. Thanks to the Superheroes, Berona is mostly crime-free, and is touted as one of the best cities in the world. However, there are some people who aren’t so sure about Berona’s greatness…

Meet Terry Landers – a genius inventor who can create anything out of nothing. But Terry knows that she’s unpleasant and rude. which is why she’s surprised when she’s asked to become a Superhero’s sidekick. Terry is one of the few people who questions the wisdom of having the Superheroes govern Berona, and as she dives into her new role as a Superhero sidekick, she begins to realize just how right she might be.

Throw in a child kidnapping and evidence that links the crime to the Superheroes, it’s now up to Terry to save her beloved city. But will she be able to fulfill her duties as a sidekick? Or will danger find her first?

Not every superhero needs a sidekick. When they need one, though, they need one pretty desperately.

Terry kept me on my toes. At first I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of her due to her snide tendencies, but I soon grew to appreciate her reluctance to take anything at face value. She ended up being a breath of fresh air in a cast of characters that otherwise seemed to rely on other people’s opinions when making important decisions.

The dialogue in this story was awkward. Characters shift between one-word answers that rely heavily on slang and longer, more formal replies. In a few cases it made sense for them to shift between different speaking styles, but I was never able to predict when their speech patterns could be expected to change next. There was also a heavy use of verbs like snap, spits, growl, muttered, grumbles, and scream to describe how characters spoke. They were used so often that they distracted me from what was going on in the plot.

Heavily plot-based tales like this one often need to move quickly, so the pacing worked well for me. Some scenes also included action that took place on the periphery of the reader’s vision. The pacing reminded me of how many graphic novels are written as a lot of the backstory is revealed through conversations that take place alongside current crises.

I chose a lower age recommendation than the one the author suggested because of the types of humor the characters find funny. There is a lot of physical comedy as well as jokes that rely on puns and sly references. It reminded me of the kind of wordplay I enjoyed when I was in my early teens. I think this story will be most appealing to readers who are a few years younger than the original age range, although I’d also recommend it to older teens and adults who love comic books.

Scarlet Winters was a wild ride from beginning to end. Give it a try if you like fast-paced adventures!

The Last Generation by Ben Robertson

LAST
The Last Generation by Ben Robertson
Publisher: Menadena Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (368 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

There is no death, only a change of worlds.

The Last Generation is the story of Bridget, a half-Norse, half-Inuit girl growing up in Greenland around 1500. For 500 years, Bridget’s Viking ancestors lived in Greenland but now that is about to change as the Norse people disappear from Greenland. Bridget holds the key to the survival of her father’s people, but no one will listen to a girl, much less a girl whose mother was a Skraeling. Thus begins Bridget’s adventure in the age of discovery at the edge of the new world.

Sometimes you choose the adventure. Sometimes the adventure chooses you.

Learning about sixteenth century Norse culture from Bridget’s perspective was fascinating. I knew almost nothing about this chapter in history before reading The Last Generation, so I was glad to find such detailed descriptions of their homes, clothing, religion, and customs. Certain words weren’t translated into English immediately. I enjoyed figuring out their meanings based on context clues because it required me to pay close attention to the text and immerse myself in Bridget’s culture.

The plot regularly spent too much time focusing on what was going on in Bridget’s mind. I would have preferred to know more about what was happening around her during the most exciting moments of this adventure instead. Bridget encounters a lot of things that most girls from her culture never have the chance to experience due to the strict rules they have about gender roles. The moments when the plot wiggles free from Bridget’s ruminations to gives glimpses of how her friends and family members saw certain events were some of my favorite scenes in this tale.

There is a strong and diverse supporting cast in this novel. Bridget visits so many different places that it’s difficult to talk about them without giving away spoilers, but I was pleased with how much time was spent describing the various settings and secondary characters. I had such clear images of them in my mind that at times it was almost as if I were watching a movie instead of reading a story.

It was tricky to figure out the best age recommendation for this book. Bridget is seventeen when the action begins, but girls in her culture seem to grow up more slowly than they do in our time in certain ways. Her interests and thought patterns reminded me of how people a few years younger than her tend to behave. I’m not entirely sure if this is the age range the author was thinking of while he was writing, but the plot is appropriate for younger teens.

I’d recommend The Last Generation to young adult and adult readers alike. This is the kind of adventure that can appeal to a wide audience, and it is something I’ll be suggesting to friends who don’t normally read this genre.

Crossfire by Andrea Domanski

FIRE
Crossfire by Andrea Domanski
The Omega Group Series Book One
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (265 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Birthdays suck!

For her eighteenth, Mirissa Colson receives a package from the mother who abandoned her over a decade ago. The family secret it reveals transforms her life from trying on prom dresses to battling an ancient race of demons. Thanks, Mom.

Her nineteenth brings forth an even more treacherous foe—one maniacal demi-god bent on ruling the world. So much for dating. Thankfully, the years of martial arts and sharpshooter training her ex-Navy SEAL dad put her through gives her the perfect skill-set to build upon.

When she’s called on to save the world—literally—Mirissa finds she has a lot more in her arsenal than just a mean roundhouse kick. Burgeoning powers she previously thought impossible, like controlling the elements and sensory expansion, give her some confidence. But when she is propelled into a world teeming with preternatural beings—all with powers of their own—she finds herself outmatched and outgunned.

CROSSFIRE is a coming of age tale that bridges the gap between the world we think we know, and the one that lies just beneath the surface.

Mirissa Colson has been raised, from the time she was seven, by her father. She has always thought that her mother abandoned them both. But when she reaches eighteen, she learns the real truth, her family’s secret, and that secret reveals an entire world that she never knew existed. She learns about the Greek gods, demi-gods, and preternatural beings, both good and evil. And she learns that she has extraordinary powers meant to help her fulfill a prophecy, that she must save the world.

Crossfire is a thriller, with non-stop action. Mirissa is kidnapped and has to escape. Then she undergoes training and there are mock battles. And there are enough real battles to fill several lifetimes. Each battle is described in complete detail, blow by blow, and I have to admit, I grew tired of all the very detailed descriptions. I know nothing about martial arts, so the dynamics of the fights didn’t really draw me in. I would have liked to have seen more character development, and more details about the relationships Mirissa forms.

Nevertheless, the plot is well-crafted and I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire novel, reading it in one sitting. It is a coming of age story and a dramatic one at that. Mirissa has to absorb a great deal of information in a short amount of time and she ends up having to figure a lot of things out for herself, in the heat of battle. She is fighting not only for her own life, but for the lives of her father and friends as well, and the tension builds all the way through the novel to a heart-stopping conclusion.

I also liked the mythological aspect of this story and I felt that the history of the ancient world was well-researched. Discovering how Artemis and other deities have lived over the years until the present was fun. Discovering how the ancient gods are still operating in our world was intriguing.

Fantasy readers are sure to enjoy this exciting story, and I look forward to the next in this thrilling series.

After Me by Joyce Scarbrough

AFTER
After Me by Joyce Scarbrough
Publisher: Buzz Books USA
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (290 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After she’s murdered by a sexual predator, 18-year-old Jada Gayle must stay among the living until she finds and stops the Internet stalker who killed her. When the Afterlife Admissions Office assigns the now “transdead” Jada to a foster home back among the living, she assumes the identity of a newly-dead homeless teen and is expected to simply fit in as she hunts down her killer.

Complicating things even more, Jada discovers that an addendum to her termination agreement was inadvertently left out of her paperwork and means she now must learn to deal with normal human emotions. How can a dead girl be expected to feel anything when life had left her so empty? Then she meets Lew Stanton—captain of the chess team and computer whiz who makes her dead heart beat phantom rhythms in her chest. As if it’s not bad enough to have the hots for a nerd, Jada’s new friend Annalee likes him too.

While Jada deals with all this unwanted teenaged angst, the man who murdered her is closing in on more foolish girls. Jada thinks she has plenty of time to handle her predicament until the night she gets a terrifying message: I HAVE YOUR FRIEND.

Some deaths leave behind loose ends. Now that Jada’s been given the chance to tidy a few of hers up, will she be able to do it?

Jada’s snide approach to the afterlife is quite funny. What really made me like her, though, was how she responded to everything that happened after she was murdered. Not only did it fit her personality to a tee, it blended in incredibly well with how some people react to the type of trauma that she’s just endured. Her character development was superb, especially considering how subtle it is in the first few chapters of this novel. While I don’t know if the author has any intention of fulfilling my wish, this is the kind of book that is absolutely begging for a sequel. I loved getting to know Jada and would be thrilled to catch up with her again very soon.

People in Jada’s position are given special powers to help them complete their missions. Most of her newfound abilities are things that her new friends and foster family wouldn’t notice under normal circumstances, but there are a few things about her that I would have liked to see explained in more detail due to how easy it would be to accidentally reveal them. The powers themselves make a great deal of sense given the nature of her assignment, but it was occasionally hard to believe that Jada was so good at keeping others from noticing the logical consequences of her having them.

The premise of this tale was so unique that as soon as I noticed it I had to know what happens next. Ms. Scarbrough snagged my attention so thoroughly that I actually stayed up past my bedtime for several nights in a row to power through just one more chapter. What really earned this story such a high rating, though, was how the author acknowledged certain tropes in young adult fiction without succumbing to them. It’s hard to dig more deeply into this topic without bumping up against spoilers, but I was impressed by her consistently creative approach to the plot. This was my first introduction to Ms. Scarbrough work, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what she’ll do next!

After Me is a must-read for adults and teens alike. I, for one, will be rereading it again soon.

August Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense, YA Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Prophecy: Elf Queen of Kiirajanna by Stephen H. King

PROPHECY
Prophecy: Elf Queen of Kiirajanna by Stephen H. King
Publisher: Dragon Tale Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (397 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Alyssa never could have imagined that her first accomplishment after high school in a small Mississippi town would be traveling to a land she’d never heard of and ascending to its throne as the new Elf Queen. But when her long-lost father, the Elf King, comes back for his daughter, that is exactly the future that he brings.

With the help of her cousin, her father, and others, Alyssa carefully finds her way as an outsider through the intricacies of elf society. Along the way she meets fairies, unicorns, and other beasts that she’d grown up believing were only to be found in myths. At the same time, Alyssa encounters a mysterious cult whose entire purpose seems to be the prevention, by any means necessary, of her taking the throne. After an arrow that misses its mark and a message written in blood fail to warn her away, Alyssa finds herself in a fight for her own life and for those of her companions.

That magic exists in the realm of the elves is obvious to Alyssa from the beginning. Its use, though, is forbidden by centuries of elf tradition. When the Cult of the Wyrm finally makes its move, Alyssa must decide whether to risk banishment from her own birthright in order to wield the destructive forces as a weapon against those who would see her dead.

Join Alyssa as the sassy Southern girl enters the land of her father’s birth and deals with a stern priesthood, a stuck-up royal trio, and, of all things, a crush, as she comes of age in Kiirajanna.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

For Love of: Tangi by Antonio

TANGI
For Love of: Tangi by Antonio
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (218 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Colt Asbury’s life was good. He was captain of the football team in high school, popular with his classmates, and adored by his family. The only thing missing was someone special to share it with. But, between football and schoolwork he didn’t really have much time to think about romance—no that wasn’t exactly the whole truth. He had thought about it, and decided he wasn’t ready to deal with the ramifications of being gay. But, sometimes things can bubble to the surface in unexpected ways. In just a few minutes Colt’s whole world changes when he accidentally outs himself in front of his homeroom class over a new male student named Tangiers (Tangi) Reynolds. Suddenly he’s the talk of the school, yet all he can think about is Tangi. He’d never felt anything like what he felt when he’d first laid eyes on auburn-haired, green-eyed Tangi.

Still, it’s all too much for someone whose held so much in for so long and it takes its toll on Colt physically and emotionally. Confused and feeling broken down, he tries to find someone he can turn to, but discovers his best friend Mickey has turned against him. The rest of Colt’s friends aren’t even sure what to think about him anymore. His ex-football hero dad, whom he idolizes, and his ex-cheerleader mom are acting strangely too, and it turns out they’ve been hiding a closely guarded secret of their own. A secret shared by some of the parents of Colt’s friends. It will take the help of his younger brother Neil and Tangi’s sister Zen as well as allies in unexpected places to aid Colt in his time of greatest need. And then, there’s still the homecoming dance to think about, a homophobic chaperone to deal with, and a mystery man named Cameron. Will Colt be able to navigate these once calm now troubled waters of his life? More importantly will he be able to embrace a life with Tangi? All he knows is that he’ll give it his best shot for love of Tangi.

Coming out doesn’t usually happen all at once. It’s a process that begins when one finally admits the truth to himself and ends when everyone knows. The question is, what other secrets will Colt uncover as he begins to come out to his family and friends?

At first Colt seemed a little too good to be true. He’s a popular jock who fearlessly stands up for other kids when they’re being bullied, an affectionate big brother to his much younger siblings, and a son who idolizes his parents. What I appreciated most about this character, though, was what happened when he revealed his true self. Colt is most definitely a nice guy, but I fully warmed up to him once I realized what was going through his mind as he did all of these kind things. The image people project is often quite different from what’s going on behind the scenes. Getting to know who Colt is when no one else around is ultimately what made me like him so much.

The dialogue in this book was inconsistent. One moment the characters would speak in full, grammatically correct sentences. A paragraph or two later the same individual would reply with a shortened version of a single word. Many people adjust their speaking patterns based on who is around them, of course, but it was jarring to switch so rapidly between slang and conversations that felt a little too stilted given the ages of the people involved in them. It was just as likely to occur with the teenagers as it was with adult characters.

The chemistry between Colt and Tangi is strong. The first taste of love is often the sweetest, and I found their reactions to their growing attraction to one another to be perfect for guys their age. It was fun to see how both of them responded to their first meeting. I can’t say much more about it without giving away spoilers, but it was quite the memorable experience.

I was surprised to see how reluctant the teachers were to address the bullying at Colt’s school given that this story is set in present day. It would have been understandable for them to ignore vague rumours or not notice the subtle stuff, but their refusal to even do something as obvious as break up a fight on school grounds didn’t feel realistic to me. I don’t doubt that some adults are willing to look the other way when a student is teased because of his sexual orientation, but I found it hard to believe that multiple teachers would be willing to ignore such blatant signs of harassment given how easy it would be for someone to record their behavior with a cellphone and get them and the school into serious trouble.

My favorite scenes involved Colt and and Tangi’s families. Both boys have warm, loving relationships with their parents and younger siblings. Neither family is perfect, of course, but I enjoyed seeing how they worked together. It was particularly interesting to see what happens when the families get together for dinner.

For Love of: Tangi made me think about all of the assumptions I’ve made about other people. This is a good choice for anyone who is willing to step into someone else’s shoes for a little while.

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills by Carrie Cross

HILLS
Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills by Carrie Cross
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins plans to become a private detective like her grandfather. Stuck at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s Malibu estate for the summer, Skylar brings her detective kit, portable spy tools, and her journal for taking notes in secret code. She had no idea how dangerous the next eight weeks would prove to be. On the first day of summer school an odd classmate named Kat passes a note in backward writing, introducing Skylar to the secret world of witchcraft. Practical Skylar didn’t believe in magic—until the spells they perform in an abandoned garden actually begin to work. Skylar finds herself accepting the increasingly risky challenges made by her new BF, and when Kat tells her that a mysterious group is doing wicked things up in Shadow Hills at night, she can’t help but investigate. Her classmates are nervous and rumors are flying. The teen sleuth uses the tools in her detective kit and faces her most embarrassing fear to find the truth. If Skylar survives the summer, her life will be changed forever.

There are some things that puzzle even the smartest detective. Will Skylar be able to figure out why her cousin is such a bully or what’s really happening late at night on Shadow Hill before the summer ends?

Skylar’s insatiable curiosity made me like her immediately. She’s an intelligent and resourceful girl who is clearly accustomed to thinking on her feet. What really endeared me to this character, though, were her faults. They’re things that a lot of us struggle with, and they show up so early on in her summer vacation that they feel like natural extensions of her personality. The fact that she’s willing to do this makes me think she’s a great role model. It takes a lot of courage to own up to this stuff, after all.

There were times when I questioned Skylar’s choice of friends. She’s a kind person, but she seems to be attracted to people who don’t necessarily share that character trait. It would have been helpful to know why she befriends people who have such a different outlook on life given that Skylar doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in her body. I’m hoping that this part of her life will be more fully explored in the sequel.

As a lifelong fan of codes, I was pleased to see so many different types of them represented in this story. There’s something fascinating about writing a message that most other people won’t be able to understand. At a few different points I actually paused and played around with the various codes that Skylar and her friends used to keep their communication with each other hidden. To me this is a sign of a great young adult mystery!

Figuring out the best age recommendation for this book was tricky. The plot is clearly intended for middle grade readers. Skylar seemed to written to appeal to an audience that is a few years younger than her. Chronologically she’s a teenager, but hasn’t yet developed an interest in the kind of stuff that typically appeal to adolescents.

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills was a strong introduction to a fun, new series. I’m looking forward to catching up with Skylar on her next adventure, and I’d heartily recommend doing the same to anyone who is a fan of mysteries or young adult novels.

Prophecy: Elf Queen of Kiirajanna by Stephen H. King

PROPHECY
Prophecy: Elf Queen of Kiirajanna by Stephen H. King
Publisher: Dragon Tale Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (397 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Alyssa never could have imagined that her first accomplishment after high school in a small Mississippi town would be traveling to a land she’d never heard of and ascending to its throne as the new Elf Queen. But when her long-lost father, the Elf King, comes back for his daughter, that is exactly the future that he brings.

With the help of her cousin, her father, and others, Alyssa carefully finds her way as an outsider through the intricacies of elf society. Along the way she meets fairies, unicorns, and other beasts that she’d grown up believing were only to be found in myths. At the same time, Alyssa encounters a mysterious cult whose entire purpose seems to be the prevention, by any means necessary, of her taking the throne. After an arrow that misses its mark and a message written in blood fail to warn her away, Alyssa finds herself in a fight for her own life and for those of her companions.

That magic exists in the realm of the elves is obvious to Alyssa from the beginning. Its use, though, is forbidden by centuries of elf tradition. When the Cult of the Wyrm finally makes its move, Alyssa must decide whether to risk banishment from her own birthright in order to wield the destructive forces as a weapon against those who would see her dead.

Join Alyssa as the sassy Southern girl enters the land of her father’s birth and deals with a stern priesthood, a stuck-up royal trio, and, of all things, a crush, as she comes of age in Kiirajanna.

Alyssa has grown up as the daughter of a hard-working single mom in Mississippi. Her mother always said that her father was special, but as she got older, Alyssa stopped believing in him. However, right after her high school graduation, her father arrives and he is definitely special. He is the elf king to the land of Kiiirajanna, and he as come to take her to the land of the elves where she will claim her birthright as the next elf queen.

I really liked Alyssa, finding her to be a wonderfully smart, strong, totally believable young woman. She has a lot to learn once she arrives in Kiilrajanna, including a new language, many elf customs, history, geography, protocol, and a totally different way of viewing the world.

I was hooked from the opening sentence of this novel. “In hindsight, I’ll admit that slugging the high priestess was probably a very bad idea.” I thought the opening was very effective, giving the reader enough to capture them before taking a step back and showing how Alyssa reached the place where she slugged the high priestess.

The other characters are also well-drawn and multi-dimensional. Her father does all in his power to ease her transition into this new world. Sephaline, her ranger cousin, soon becomes her best friend. Sephaline has a familiar, Booboo, who is a very protective wolverine. There is also Little Treebeard, a tree which Alyssa succeeds in singing back to health.

Alyssa discovers right from the beginning that she might be the prophesied dragon queen, but not everyone wants that prophecy to come true. The plot has a lot of action and mystery and the pacing is excellent. The land of Kiilrajanna is very clearly described and it seems to be a wonderful place, filled with amazing inhabitants, even though all magic is forbidden. Alyssa finds herself having to battle magical foes with the aid of Sephaline and Prince Keion, without having any real idea of how to survive.

This is a wonderful, exciting, magical story, and while I haven’t seen any references to a series, I’m really hoping that I will once again enter the land of the elves and find out what adventures await Alyssa. Readers of fantasy are sure to be captivated by this story.