Maybe I’m too old for this one or maybe I’ve just read too many YA fantasy books recently but this book just didn’t really work for me.
It starts off quite well in a way quite similar to Twilight with main character Neiva packed off by her parents to Spirit Island, Alaska to stay with her Grandmother and finish her final year at school while her parents go travelling.
There are hints from the very beginning that there is something very mysterious about the Island. It’s remote and very insular and no one seems to have heard of it. Those who Neiva tells seem to instantly forget about it. This time however she is determined to get proof that something isn’t right. When she first arrives everything seems fairly normal however you quickly get the sense that everyone is keeping secrets from her.
It’s only on her 17th birthday that the secrets begin to come to light and strange things start happening. Neiva finds out that she has to take part in an ancient and traditional ritual which involves among other things receiving a totem of her spirit guide. She soon discovers however that she and her friends have powers and there is a whole other world around her. A world of spirits and demons and other legends, one of which seems to be determined to kill her. She also meets a mysterious stranger in a mask that she can’t help being drawn to.
There are some great ideas in this book. I loved the idea of the Eskimo legends being real (although I should say I know nothing about Eskimo legends so have no idea if any of them are truly legends). It does give it that slightly different twist on the usual young adult fantasy book.
The problem I had however was that I felt there was too much going on and I found it confusing. Spirits, guardians, demons, spirit guides, vampires, Triton, the Loch Ness monster and various other creatures get a mention at some point or another. I have to admit I gave up trying to follow it. There is a lot of information that’s thrown at you in big chunks and at times it breaks the flow of the story and doesn’t seem relevant. There could have been a bit more subtlety in working it into the text.
There are also some inconsistencies and continuity issues which were a little frustrating. For example one minute a raven was her favourite animal, the next she was terrified of them and then she loved them again. There was a moment she thought she recognised someone then dismissed it as her imagination. Five minutes later she was writing in her diary about how she was positive she’d seen them. Neiva also knew someone’s name even though after the last time they met she commented that she’d forgotten to ask for it. I had an ARC so hopefully these have been fixed.
I found it strange in this book as well how none of the adults seemed overly concerned about the fact someone was trying to kill Neiva. In most YA fantasy books the adults are blissfully ignorant of what’s going on however in this case they all know the legends and could help. Instead they quite happily sent her off camping in a remote location with her friends. She does receive training but that seemed to be mostly dance lessons and riding sea creatures which isn’t much practical use if someone is trying to drown you, eat your soul or send a possessed bear after you. The advice she kept receiving was to stick with her friends. Although her friends didn’t seem to be a huge amount of use in keeping her safe.
The characters were OK. I found Neiva a little annoying in some ways and felt like she was younger than the 17 she was supposed to be. Every boy she met was soooo good looking and she seemed to spend most of her time blushing or crying. I was not a fan of the diary. I did like how she pushed for answers though and that she cared so much about her friends and family. I also liked her friends Nate and Viv and the relationship between the two of them. Viv is fiery in more ways than one whereas Nate is funny and loyal. They fight constantly but I get the feeling it’s a bit of a love/hate thing.
The story does pick up towards the end and I did find that it started to draw me in so that I wanted to know how things would turn out. I don’t think though that I will be rushing to read the next in the series although maybe I just need a break from this genre.
Overall, while I didn’t love it I think a lot of people, particularly younger teens will. It reminded me a bit of the Iron King (which I also wasn’t keen on) so if you like that you would probably like this.
Thanks to NetGalley and SparkPress for the ARC