Friday, December 25, 2009

Book Review: Firespell by Chloe Neill

Title: Firespell (a novel of the Dark Elite)

Author: Chloe Neill

Pages: 246

Received from: author


As the new girl at the elite St. Sophia’s boarding school, Lily Parker thinks her classmates are the most monstrous things she’ll have to face…

When Lily’s guardians decided to send her away to a fancy boarding school in Chicago, she was shocked. So was St. Sophia’s. Lily’s ultra-rich brat pack classmates think Lily should be the punchline to every joke, and on top of that, she’s hearing strange noises and seeing bizarre things in the shadows of the creepy building.

The only thing keeping her sane is her roommate, Scout, but even Scout’s a little weird—she keeps disappearing late at night and won’t tell Lily where she’s been. But when a prank leaves Lily trapped in the catacombs beneath the school, Lily finds Scout running from a real monster.

Scout’s a member of a splinter group of rebel teens with unique magical talents, who’ve sworn to protect the city against demons, vampires, and Reapers, magic users who’ve been corrupted by their power. And when Lily finds herself in the line of firespell, Scout tells her the truth about her secret life, even though Lily has no powers of her own—at least none that she’s discovered yet…

Lily lives happily in the suburbs of Upstate New York. She has friends and parents who love her, and she's just out of her Sophmore year, looking forward to a fun-filled summer and impending Junior year. She is, for all intent and purposes, normal...but when her parents accept a research sabatical in Germany, and Lily is shipped off to St. Sophia's in Chicago, she finds that her parents have been hiding a lot from her, including who (and what) she is.

Well, where do I begin?

Let's go with the obvious; we are all no doubt bored to tears with the whole supernatural boarding school for the gifted schtick, possibly more so with paranormal romance. And, clearly, Firespell is all of these things. I can't say to you honestly it breaks all the molds and sets itself apart from the other novels of it's genre, but I can say this: it is not lacking excitment.

Almost immediatley upon her arrival at St. Sophia's, Lily is bombarded with new information and, more importantly, a new friend, Scout. On her first night, Scout (who has already claiming Lily as her "new BFF") runs off, with the measly explanation that she has to "excerise". The next day, Lily follows her (why? don't ask me). She finds a hidden tunnel. She also finds Scout. Scout is running from a very large thing. She shuts an eqaually large door, and we don't get to see this very large thing. Scout is angry that she has been followed, and Lily is concerned for their newfound friendship (as opposed to the fact that there was a Very Large Thing chasing Scout). Mini-drama ensues (though it's probably the least dramatic moment in the entire novel--more on that later). Lily soon finds out (after being lurred to the catacombs by the bitchy rich girls who share her and Scout's suite, who tempt her with a secret stash of...magazines and candy?) that Scout is part of a group of magic-weiling teens who fight off eeeevil magic-weilders (called Reapers). Despite the official summary, there are no vampires. Or demons. There is a very little argument about whether or not they should tell Lily anything, but she gets hit with a thing called Firespell so they have to. There is also many references to Gossip Girl and Nancy Drew. And...stuff.

Let's get the bad out of the way, shall we?

The language. This is key when writing a YA novel. Key. If there is shotty dialogue, I will immediatley take a disliking to it. A YA author should write in a way that I don't know she is an adult, you know? That wasn't here in Firespell. I did not buy for a minute that I was reading really teenage conversation. I'm not saying it has to be right on--I can only expect so much. But every word any character said just screamed "this is what I think teenagers speak like!" It's like...Scout supposed to be a "rebel", right? Cuz she has a nose ring and oh my god the tip of her hair is blond. She also loves teen magazines and knick-knackes, how quircky! And everyone keeps saying notwithstanding and call each other by their last names (I don't know anyone who does that) and the "witty" banter sounds so forced and oh my god why must everything be compared to Gossip Girl? THE FRUSTRATION!

Secondly, there's Scout. I know she's meant to be the Fairy Pixie Dream Girl who comes whooshing in and introducing our heroine to the world of magic and being her BFFaF and omg we love her!! But that's the thing...I didn't. Not that I hated her, I just found her so unbelievable. Why in God's name, fi you have such a hugeass secret, would you become so chummy with a girl you hardly know? If it were me, I'd be more...I don't know...elusive? Goddamn.

The minor characters are somewhat interesting, but they're so minor and so hardly dwelled on they might as well have not even shown up. Plus, there's the whole *spoiler* Jason is a werewolf thing and, I swear, did Neil just decide halfway through editing that she needed some romance and inserted some awkwared gawking by Lily and a really weird, unexpected and anticlimatic relationship between the two in the last two pages. No chemistry whatsoever, but I'm going to give Neil the benefit of the doubt and hope for more in the next novel.

Despite it's misgivings, Firespell did contain a certain charm. It was incredibly approachable and readable, no abuse of the English language such as a certain sparkly-vampire themed quartet I know of. The whole magic aspect is very simply laid out, and it's pretty easy to follow along. I finished Firespell in only a couple of hours, and there wasn't a moment when I was bored. And, after all, is this what we all look for when we pick up a book? Entertainment?

The prose, when Neil isn't trying too hard to sound like a teenager, is very well done. I definetly have high hopes for Neil and where she takes the Dark Elit series, as well as what other shenanigans Lily and Scout'll get into.

Rating: torn between a 6 and a 7. Let's just say 6.5 out of 10--good.

Also: Check out Neil's other Chicago-based urban fantasy series, the Chicagoland Vampires.

They killed me. They healed me. They changed me.

Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was mine. I was doing fine until Chicago's vampires announced theirexistence to the world-and then a rogue vampire attacked me. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker... and this one decided the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead.

Turns out my savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now I've traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan "Lord o' the Manor" Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four hundred year old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude-and servitude. Right...

But my burgeoning powers (all of a sudden, I'm surprisingly handy with some serious weaponry), an inconvenient sunlight allergy, and Ethan's attitude are the least of my concerns. Someone's still out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches?

My initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war-and there will be blood...


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