YA Fantasy Urban

Thrall

Thrall
Published: June 1, 2012
Author's Twitter: @jennq
When 16-year old Braedyn learns she’s a descendent of Lilith–the mother of all demons—she is swept into an ancient war with no easy answers.   Welcome to Braedyn Murphy’s life. She’s a typical—if shy—sophomore navigating the slings and arrows of high school life with her two best friends, Royal and Cassie. Then a new boy, Lucas, moves into the house next door, and Braedyn finds herself falling in love for the first time. But Braedyn’s normal life comes crashing down around her ears when she learns she’s a descendent of Lilith, the mother of all demons – and that she might play a critical role in an ancient war between the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Lilith. Turns out the right answers aren’t always clear or easy. And as for “good” and “evil” – it all depends on how you choose to act. Inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian myths of Lilith and her offspring, Thrall explores first love, strong friendships, and taking on adult responsibilities against the backdrop of powerful supernatural forces and life-and-death stakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Elect

The Elect
Author:
Published: December 9, 2013
“An accidental encounter with an impossible flame leads Allison Noble down a path of self-discovery…”

Reviewed by Awesome Indies
October 2, 2014

The Elect follows high school student Allison through her discovery of supernatural powers she never imagined existed, let alone that she possessed. A riveting YA read, this novel delivers where so many fall short. The main character isn’t whiny or weak, nor is she dependent on her male interest. This is a fast, fun and completely mesmerizing read that I couldn’t put down. As soon as I’m done reading this, I’m going to go buy book two!

The formatting and design of The Elect is professional and pristine. I saw only one editing error in the entire book (Allison’s mother puts a black “back” on her bed instead of a black “bag”) but it was so minor it only stood out in contrast to the lack of problems with the editing overall.

The plot flows smoothly, paced to engage and draw the reader in. At the end, it really picks up steam and I can’t imagine how anyone could put it down during the last quarter without finishing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the characterizations. The use of high school students tends to lend itself to stereotypes and while The Elect certainly had the popular crowd and the creepy dude, they were fleshed out and never reduced to place holders. The cast of this novel is quite broad and yet each remained distinct in personality and motivation.

The only reason this isn’t a full 5 stars is because I found Delaney’s announcement that she was a member of The Elect to be forced. If she were a part of a secret society, she would probably be a little less insistent on exposing someone else’s secrets. Her behavior prior to her disclosure just didn’t match up with what someone in her supposed position would do. Other than that, this was a flawless book and I highly recommend it.

Super Nobody

Super Nobody
Author:
Published: May 25, 2013
Author's Twitter: @BMeskeWriter
Michael is just an ordinary, average, normal, every day middle schooler in the perfect town of Lincolnshire, a town that happens to have more superheroes per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. What could possibly go wrong, surrounded by so many people capable of destroying the town with a snap of their fingers?

Reviewed by Tahlia Newland.

November 28, 2013

5 Stars

 

It Was Clear From The First Sentence

It was clear from the first sentence of this book that the author knows what he’s doing. Super Nobody grabs your attention straight away and holds you there in a fast moving action packed story about super villains, superheroes and a not-super reluctant teenage hero. There’s a few YA superhero books about, but this one has a particularly real central character who isn’t so super and not such a hero, at least to begin with.

The story begins with Michael being bullied. It seems a normal enough situation, but things soon start turning very strange. Kids are turning into Actives, the name for super beings, and soon everything goes pear-shape. Michael may be a nobody, but he’s just the kind of nobody the town needs to save it from a madman, or is he? If plan A fails, there’s no plan B.

Mr Meske doesn’t just deliver a great action story, he delivers on the characterisation as well. Michael, Charlotte and his mother are very real people, and Michael grows through his experiences as characters should. The language was such that I never had any doubt that I was looking at the world through the eyes of a 12 yr old boy. I particularly liked the ‘shrug shield and grunt armor.’ The prose is clean and clear, well aimed for a young young adult audience, a great read for boys and girls.

Highly recommended. 5 stars. It well-deserves its AIA Seal of Excellence.

 

Eden at the Edge of Midnight

Eden at the Edge of Midnight
Author:
Published: October 19, 2012
Author's Twitter: @JohnEKerry
The Vara of Yima, the original Garden of Eden, sealed from the rest of the world and populated with the fittest of men and women. A secret paradise that 150 years ago became ravaged by smog that choked out the skies.   All good stories have a hero. “The One” who arrives to save the realm from darkness and evil. But what if the wrong person takes their place by accident? Now the Vara exists in a permanent state of darkness and its people need a champion, a chosen one to save them from the smog that threatens to fill the realm and poison its inhabitants. That’s what they needed. They got Sammy Ellis instead. She isn’t important enough for her dad to stick around for, never mind saving a realm or junk like that. Her only responsibility was to help the chosen one open the gateway into the Vara, but not only has she entered the realm in their place, she’s also locked them out in the process. Stuck in a twilight land of giant mushrooms, pursued by dark forces and still in her pyjamas, being unimportant back in the real world is starting to seem way more attractive.  

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

June 19, 2014

If one were to take the Chronicles of Narnia (take your pick which one), Alice in Wonderland, and then add in a dash of Stephen King, and put the whole thing in a blender, you’d come close to having Eden At the Edge of Midnight, the first book in John Kerry’s Vara Chronicles. Giant mushrooms, pink stegosaurus-like mammals, a roiling purple sky, carnivorous rhinos, and even more bizarre things await Sammy Ellis, the luckless and unpopular English protagonist who only wants her often-drunk, harsh father to recognize her for the soccer (foothball) genius she is. Instead, a bracelet catapults Sammy into Vara, where people have no idea what grass is, make furniture out of fungus, and where magic exists.

This book is a real page-turner. Past the first few rather interesting chapters, once Sammy lands in Vara it’s almost like the book reads itself. It’s chock full of an interesting backstory, the shattering history of the various secret societies, cities, and the order of the magi are all keeping secrets and trying to stay alive.

Of the three main characters, perhaps Hami is my favorite. You’re obviously supposed to root for Mehrak, and he’s the harmless, hapless and well-meaning comedy in the book, but Hami is the lone wolf with possibly dark secrets. All three are written well, and the dialogue serves to separate out characters fairly well.

Eden’s also got action sequences (handled well), full on army battles (mostly these go on offstage, but that’s okay) some creepy, thrilling portions with some kind of mysterious monster we should probably see more of in the second book, and all of these are written with great skill.

What’s most admirable about the book is the author’s ability to fully envision a three hundred sixty view of a completely alien world. Vara not only has cool creatures (lava pterodactyls, nice) and interesting locations (Honton Keep is great), but under the author’s watch they come to vivid life.

At about the eighty five percent mark, you begin to wonder ‘Okay, great, so far the book is really good, but it’s not going to end off at a cliffhanger, is it? The author wouldn’t do that to me… well, some authors would do that to me. Crud.’ Rest assured, the book does finally resolve itself, though the epilogue (and unanswered questions from the remainder of the book) leave a door standing open to the future of the series.

There are a couple of places where the book falters, however. The first is the propensity of the author to repeat sentences similar to ‘He turned away and said nothing.’ or ‘He just looked at her and didn’t speak.’ These mostly started to get to me in the middle of the book, where loyalties and motives begin to get questioned.

Second, there are a number of places and terms in the world of Vara that aren’t explained. My two hangups were The Fifth Azaran and Ahriman, which appear to have a lot of meaning to the author, but for which we receive no backstory. Are there four other Azarans? The reader has no idea. No lore is provided, not even a casual mention of the function of these things, which actually become very, very important later in the book.

Third, this book is categorized under children’s fiction, and parents need to take note here: this is, at best, a high level young adult book. There is swearing, there is alcohol use, and while generally these are not part of the YA canon, sometimes they slip in there. Both, in this case, serve the purpose of characterizing an important person in the novel, but neither are handled with the sort of delicacy one would expect of YA (the function would be to teach a lesson about why these things aren’t acceptable, or why people do them when they shouldn’t). While the instances of swearing and drinking are minimal, they are not in the slightest bit subtle.

Overall, AIA lists four stars as material you would find in a bookstore as published by a mainstream publisher. I believe this book stands on the very edge of that rating and the three star rating: books we at AIA recommend readers to buy, but which wouldn’t make the editorial cut at a publishing house. I’m awarding four stars because the writing was done very well, and the flaws were fairly minor, but parents are warned that this is much more an adult than a YA book.

 

The Christmas Dragon

The Christmas Dragon
Published: February 13, 2014
Author's Twitter: @ruthannereid
All Katie Lin wants is to get away from her family: from the magic, from the mayhem, and from the never-ending war. Unfortunately, running away doesn’t always work as planned.   Katie Lin is special, but she really doesn’t want to be. Descendent of one of the few families of “humans” who can use magic, Katie long ago grew tired of the constant fight over magical heritage, land rights, and power struggles with other members of the magical Mythos.  Unfortunately, she didn’t run far enough: one day, a box appears on her doorstep. A box with a just-hatched baby dragon.  The baby dragon inside is a magical mess, and Katie flees to the only family member she trusts: the only and only legendary Merlin. It figures he’s gone missing, and with the Wild Hunt on the baby dragon’s trail, Katie runs amuck of dragon royalty, the Crow King, and at least one reluctant elf prince.  So much for escape. Sometimes, running away just doesn’t work as planned.    

Reviewed by Tahlia Newland

This is a great little story. I really enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vingede

Vingede
Author:
Publisher:
Published: October 4, 2013
Author's Twitter: @KrisiKeley
A possibly schizophrenic adolescent boy who speaks mysterious, rhyming riddles… a mute teen girl who can only communicate through art and has an odd collecting habit… Two young people held captive by unrelated mental illness or is there a sinister connection between the cases – a swan song cry no one has yet heard? When former novitiate turned PI, Tobias Berger, is hired by the foster father of a teen whom his unusual new client believes may have knowledge of an undiscovered crime, the private eye finds himself immersed in two cases stranger and darker than the one which introduced him to his current secretary, a young woman who’s much more to him than an employee. As the pieces in an eerie puzzle come together and the couple begins a relationship that Tobias has been hesitant to let take flight, the two discover that the supernatural is far from done with them and that the mystical may well be at work in more than one aspect of their lives. Another fairy tale mystery in which the paranormal proves itself business as usual.  

Reviewed 

An Excellent and Eerie Mystery

The second of Krisi Keley’s Friar Tobias mysteries is even better than the first. Once again the author’s background in linguistics and theology provides the unique material for this superb supernatural mystery.

A man seeks Tobias’s help for his foster son. He thinks the child may have witnessed a crime, but the boy has a speech problem due to either autism or schizophrenia, so no one can understand him. Like Ms Keley, Tobias has a degree in linguistics which is why the man seeks him out. Paolo speaks in poetry and makes obscure references to what Tobias eventually figures out is an old fairy tale about a girl and her eleven brothers that are turned into swans by a wicked witch. He senses that someone is in trouble, but who?

Tobias’s friend, the psychiatrist priest, wants him to meet a mute and apparently traumatised girl who has turned up in a hospital and, in what appears to be sheer coincidence, her sketches indicate that she fills the role of the girl in the fairy tale. But where are her eleven brothers? And how does Paolo know all this? This description is a gross simplification of a story with many subtleties, but as with all good mysteries, our suspicions are aroused and the pieces come together at the end.

Ms Keley manages to imbue her mystery with more than just the supernatural. As with all her books, questions of spirituality are at the core of the story. Tobias is a staunch Catholic. He believes in leaving sex until marriage, so his girlfriend, Samantha, who he met in his last case, must wait with him, and this provides some interesting topics of conversation. The nature of the crime and how it reflects present day morals is also a matter of thought-provoking reflection on Tobias’s part, but both these issues sit quite naturally in the story simply because of who Tobias is.

Ms Keley is a master of the English language. Her prose flows beautifully (though I did find the first sentence rather a mouthful) and she expresses subtle ideas succinctly and elegantly. The characters are charming with a delightful intelligent banter between Tobias and Samantha. The plot is interesting, the pacing never languishes and the editing is sleek.

Overall the book is an excellent and eerie mystery about a sick crime that needs a little supernatural intervention to bring the perpetrator to justice. This is a wonderful example of the kind of gems you’ll only find in independent fiction. It’s an entertaining, skilfully executed mystery, but it’s also different, deep and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it for those who like private investigator stories with supernatural and metaphysical elements.

 

Mareritt

Mareritt
Author:
Publisher:
Published: June 1, 2013
Author's Twitter: @KrisiKeley
Embark on a wild “mare ride” to slay a dragon and uncover the truth. As beauty lies sleeping… Four pretty, partying high school seniors, four strange and startling accidents the police believe the girls have brought on themselves. Do demonic nightmares and fairy tale visions bury a dark secret haunting the girls or is the past simply struggling to reach the light? Twenty-eight year old former novitiate turned PI, Tobias Berger, hired to discover who, if anyone, is threatening the four troubled young women, is about to embark on a wild “mare ride” to slay their dragon and uncover the truth. A dark fairy tale mystery with a touch of mystic light.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

June 30, 2013

A beautifully written, extraordinary metaphysical mystery

5 Stars

Mereritt  by Krisi Keley is a beautifully written, extraordinary and fascinating metaphysical mystery that is a great read for anyone who likes a supernatural mystery. It will particularly appeal to anyone who likes a bit of meat in their fiction and especially those interested in philosophy, which is seamlessly woven into the story. Even the mystery itself is of a metaphysical nature.

Four girls have the same nightmares, see ghostly visions and are involved in strange accidents, one of them is in a comma. The question is, is someone trying to hurt them, or are they just mentally unstable? It’s not a case the police can do anything about, so one of the girl’s mother seeks out the local private investigator, Friar Tobe, as he is known. Tobias isn’t a Friar. He left the order before completing his novitiate, but he is a Christian  with a clearly profound faith who had been on his way to becoming a Brother, and the locals have taken to referring to him as Friar Tobe.  In this way, he is the Christian equivalent of Tenzin from the Rule of a Ten Books by Gay Hendricks . Tenzin is an ex-Buddhist monk and also a PI but his cases are more of a worldly nature.

Tobias  is a likeable character, open-minded, self-aware, intelligent and with a highly refined wit  that is shared by the equality intelligent female lead, Samantha. She is one of the four eighteen-year-olds involved in the case, and she flirts with him. He finds her enchanting, but since she is a client, he mustn’t fall for her, a fact that adds a nice undercurrent of sexual tension to the story. Ms Keley is a consummate story teller, and this book, like her On the Soul of a Vampire Series has a symbolic aspect, in this case in the shared nightmare. Tobias must piece together all the threads of a mystery that operates on the mental, physical and spiritual planes and that calls for his knowledge of linguistics and his understanding of the spiritual dimension.

All the characters are well-fleshed out and believable ( Sam is more mature than many eighteen year olds but not unrealistically so)  and another particularly likeable character is Father Mike. The relationship between the two men has the light touch that comes from a long and close friendship.

This is an entertaining and enjoyable mystery, but it is also much more. It is also a thought-provoking exploration of divine justice and redemption, a particularly wonderful book for those with an interest in philosophy, for Ms Keley has a degree in theology. She knows her stuff and it shows. This is the finest kind of metaphysical fiction in that the philosophy and its world view are not only inseparable from the story, but also are fully researched and don’t in any way impinge upon or overpower the storyline. So it can be enjoyed on many levels; the kind of book that feeds your mind and soul, and perhaps even opens your heart somewhat. It is also flawlessly edited, not a typo or grammatical error in sight. Highly recommended. 5 stars

Matt Archer: Monster Hunter

Matt Archer: Monster Hunter
Series:
Published: December 6, 2013
Author's Twitter: @KendraHighley
Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer thinks his life is pretty lame until he discovers something terrifying on a weekend camping trip at the local state park: monsters are real.

Awesome Indies

April 30, 2014

Four stars.

Matt Archer is a modern coming of age superhero story. A mystical knife chooses Matt to be its wielder after he defeats a monster while on a camping trip with his uncle. This catapults Matt into the military world of monster hunters, helped by his green beret uncle, he is put through a crash course in monster hunting and sent back home to scout out and defeat the ‘bear’ monsters in his area whilst maintaining utmost secrecy from his family and school friends.

I found it very hard to believe that a fourteen year old would be able to live such a double life without his family or school becoming aware of it. Even harder to believe is that apparently in the entirety of the US special forces, they couldn’t even spare one man to protect a fourteen year old boy so he got his best friend to come hunting with him.

The prose itself was well written. it accurately evoked the life of a high school teenager with a crush, the excitement of his first kiss and the awkwardness of growing up. The monster action scenes were also very engaging and the plot moved along at a good pace. The characters were well rounded and there is a good mix of action, humour and romance. This book ticks all the boxes if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief about certain plot points.

 

Ariel’s Dream

Ariel’s Dream
Series:
Publisher:
Published: June 2, 2013
Author's Twitter: @TahliaNewland
Ariel’s Dream is a prequel short story to the award-winning Diamond Peak Series. It includes the first chapter of book one, Lethal Inheritance. A shadow escapes from Ariel’s dream and stalks her in the real world. No matter how she tries to shake it off, it always returns. Even a mysterious old man and a boy bathed in light can’t keep its chill breath at bay. Like the fear that called it, the only way to defeat the shadow is to face it.Ariel’s Dream has received the AIA Seal of Excellence and is a prequel short story to the award-winning Diamond Peak Series. It includes the first chapter of book one, Lethal Inheritance.