In this new debut fantasy novel, promising a series to follow, adaptable child protagonists deal with past hardships in a refreshing way.
The conflict stems from a menacing society within the context of an intriguing fantasy world. Children play a key role in the world building of this novel at the center of which is a heartless cult bent on exploiting the inner potential of children. While this is far removed from our world, one gets the sense that if a few things were different, human beings could act and exploit one another in similar ways. It is probably a good thing that magical powers don’t come into play in our everyday lives.
The writing provides a constant tension engendered by the characters being continuously on the run. The onset of foreboding powers marks the turning point in their lives, but their relationships grow out of necessity as they navigate the treacherous situation in which they find themselves. Overall, the narrative is rich in detail and textured like the classics of fantasy. Any fan of Tolkien will appreciate McLaren’s solid grasp of design elements. The whole is tightly edited with quick-paced dialogue and description that does not overstay its welcome, often melding with the interior monolog. The author utilizes an immersive perspective and ample exposition to lay the groundwork of the conflict and atmosphere right off the bat. It is a dark young adult premise with a readable execution, and the author gives us plenty of room to explore her fascinating universe, which, over the course of the novel, begins to draw subtle parallels to the harrowing world in which we live.
I would have liked to see a little more humor or levity, but I think if that is not your main priority as a reader you should fare just fine with this somewhat bleak, but rewarding, read. Full of ominous juxtapositions of danger and palpable dread, it is a blending of familiar and foreign concepts, but it always retains a relatable pathos toward the main characters and their seemingly endless struggle through an unjust world.