Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Bad things really did come in threes.”
Lila Merriweather lives in the most magical place in America – Loudburst Falls, WV – and it sucks. In a town ruled by group of powerful families, Lila keeps her head down and supports herself by making certain “acquisitions.” An orphan whose mother was murdered, Lila wants nothing to do with the town, it’s residents, or their problems.
Easier said then done.
When Lila drops into a friend’s store, she is reluctantly forced to step in and stop a violent kidnapping. She is shocked to discover the cute guy she saved is none other than Devon Sinclair; heir to the powerful Sinclair family.
Her reward for her good deed?
She is blackmailed into becoming a bodyguard for Devon and soon finds herself living it up in luxury while silently fuming over her new forced lifestyle. Lila doesn’t know who’s trying to kidnap Devon or why, but unless she figures it out soon, she’s going to end up just like her mother…dead.
Jennifer Estep’s latest urban fantasy adventure revolves around a magical and deadly tourist trap town and a reclusive teenager whose reluctantly dragged into a long-standing family feud. Action, intrigue, suspense, and a healthy dose of snark introduces a new world that blends modern sensibilities with magical charm.
Lila is a seventeen year old thief with strong talents. Lila learned early on that the only person you should ever depend is yourself. Residing secretly in the basement of the local library, her only friend is the owner of the local pawn shop who watches over her; acting as a quasi-guardian. Shallow, selfish, anti social, and antagonistic, Lila avoids most human contact-especially the families that control Cloudburst Falls and all those who live there.
The families who rule this town do so with a mob style mentality. Powerful families whose never-ending manipulations and feuds spell disaster and death to anyone who is stupid enough to interfere. As magic is measured by your talent(s) and the amount power behind it, these families maintain the power structure of the town. The Sinclairs and the Draconis are the most among the more powerful and Lila has a very good reason to avoid these two families in particular.
Part of me wanted to run after her, grab her shoulder, spin her around, and plant my first in her face for what she had done to me, for what her family had done to mine…
Jennifer Estep is one of my favorite Urban Fantasy authors. She is a talented writer who appeals to the average fantasy reader. We want to be shocked and awed but also able to relate to the world and it’s inhabitants. Her fabulous voice creates such strong urban fantasy based heroines; regardless of their age. Her heroine’s are loners, usually due to the loss of a parental figure in their youth that inevitably shapes their lives. They may be damaged but they aren’t fragile. Formidable, resourceful, and usually snarky, Estep puts them in seemingly impossible situations and realistically uses their experiences, along with the outcomes, to strip away their layers to rebuild them into better adjusted individuals. Add in some creative world building, imaginative plot lines, and a magically (heh) enhanced cast of secondary characters and you are guaranteed a fun-filled, non stop, action packed, heck of ride.
Cloudburst Falls was the most magical place in America and tourist town where fairy tales are real.
Yeah, fairy tales were real here alright…including the monsters that went right along with them. Monsters that were fe-fi-fo-fum hungry for all the blood and bones they could sink their teeth and claws into, mortal, magick, or otherwise.
Heavily characters driven, the themes of this book are change, growth, and possibility; as are the majority of Estep’s books. Estep creates characters who aren’t always likeable or easy to relate too. She gradually and with a steady hand chips away at their shells to reveal their hearts; then begins the hard battle of putting them back together. Lila changes when she is forced to shed her anonymity and engage actively with the town and it’s founding families. Her pain, sorrow, and need for revenge has fueled her for so long, she is unsure how to act when she really gets to know the objects of all her hate.
I hated him. I’d hated him for years, and was determined to hate him now, along with the rest of his stupid family.
Lila growth is small but steady as she spends time with the Sinclairs and sees the truth behind the throne, so to speak. She learns they aren’t the heartless monsters she has always hated and feared. They to have suffered for their choices and know the pain of losing someone they love. As she is forced to face some uncomfortable truths about herself, she discovers a small vein of sympathy for the Sinclairs; especially Devon. The possibility is presented as Lila comes to realise she is no longer alone in the world. Destiny has struggled to reassert itself and she now stands where her mother did before. She has a chance to secure everything she has ever wanted if she is willing to set aside her anger, grief, and hatred.
Though I enjoyed this book, I was left with some misgivings. From a personal standpoint, I found it very entertaining. Magic, murder, and mystery are all themes that draw me in like a moth to a flame. The most magical place in America? It’s like Disney World on crack. Living in FL, I find that aspect hilarious. A town ruled by mobster families? Sign me up. A cranky heroine whose anti social tendencies mimic my own and loves bacon? Helloooooo new bff! Swords are the weapons of choice in a fight? Be still my heart!
From a reviewer’s standpoint, I can see the borrowing of ideas, certain characteristics, and world building from Estep’s other series, which gave me a strong deja vu feeling. To be fair, all of Estep’s series have faint ties to one another, but this one borrows heavily from both Estep’s Elemental and Mythos Academy series.
Our heroine, Lila Merriweather, is Gwen Frost 2.0. She’s a bigger, badder model. Lila is what I would expect if Gin Blanco had a daughter. Similar in talents; both girls can ‘read’ a person though Lila’s is more empathic while Gwen’s is more grounded in psychmetry. Both carry swords that belonged to their mothers. Both can borrow a person’s powers (or skills in Gwen’s case) with a touch. Both their mothers had jobs helping the underdog-Gwen’s mom was a cop, Lila’s mom a bodyguard. And both of their mothers were murdered because of their jobs. While there are variances on these aspects to help flesh out Lila as her own entity, but for someone who is intimately familiar with these series, the similarities are glaring.
A varied vivacious secondary cast shows promise of expansion but also shows similarity in make up to the characters from the Mythos Academy and Elemental series. Mo, Lila’s “guardian,” is a combination of Finn and Fletcher. Someone who watches over Lila and loves her but won’t hesitate to use her for his own gains. Devon, Felix, and Grant reminded me of Logan and his friends; one of them even has a forbidden, secret crush. There are signs of a possible future love interest, but as of right now, any romance is off the table. The world with it’s mob style ruling families is reminiscent of Ashland-the home of Gin Blanco.
Though there are definite issues I’d love to see addressed, the heavy drawing from other series being my main one, I still enjoyed this adventure. Estep has once again penned an action packed YA fantasy whose hints of darkness, violence, and snarky humor offer a wide variety of potential for a girl whose life is now dependant on the very people who she faults for destroying it to begin with.
I look forward to visiting this world again soon. Book two, Dark Heart Of Magic, is set to release October 27, 2015.