Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Poltergeeks – Sean Cummings

October 2012 release.

Poltergeeks is part of the impressive opening gambit of new YA publisher, Strange Chemistry (an imprint of Angry Robot). They were gracious enough to give me an ARC to review, which I was super excited about having seen the cover and blurb beforehand.

The main character, Julie Richardson, is a regular teen girl. She goes to school, fights with her single mother… and rescues old ladies from Poltergeists. The aforementioned  rescue is merely the first in a string of increasingly sinister paranormal activities which Julie feels compelled to investigate against her mother’s wishes – wanting to prove her independence. Unfortunately Julie’s investigations soon land her in trouble and her mother is seriously injured in the process. In the aftermath, Julie finds herself racing the clock in a desperate attempt to find the perpetrator – find a cure for her mother – all while navigating strange paranormal alliances, family secrets, and hardest of all: a budding romance.

Poltergeeks is a lively novel, and the action is fairly constant throughout, helping to set a quick and easy reading pace. There are a few stand out action sequences and I was impressed with the variety of settings used for the fight scenes: a living-room, school bathrooms, a graveyard, a baseball arena. The magic used was also fairly easy to follow,  a lot of it based on willpower. Though the twists were not that surprising, I didn’t find that it mattered, especially when taking into account the age of the intended audience.

The teen characters in the novel are written from a very real place, and their motivations and actions are honest to their age – particularly in regards to relationships. Not to give too much away, but some of the family scenes, and certain reactions to romance are immediately bought to mind. And though the budding romance could be a bit clumsy at times, I did find it a refreshing change from the instant, soul-deep love that is being portrayed in a lot of YA (in fact, in a lot of paranormal fiction in general) at the moment.

Unfortunately, despite the ease with which I read Poltergeeks, the narrative voice didn’t really resonate with me. This is one of the huge gambles with fiction – especially first-person perspective – and there’s nothing technical I can pull out of the writing to give a reason for it. Maybe it was a bunch of small things which added up, or maybe I just didn’t connect – sometimes it happens.

However, while I won’t be running out to buy a hard copy of this book for my own shelves, I would definitely consider purchasing it for a YA library collection as I genuinely think some readers will adore it. This book just wasn’t written for me.

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Silver Kiss – Naomi Clark

Silver Kiss is the first novel in Naomi Clark’s Urban Wolf series, and it dumps you straight into the thick of things, almost as though you had missed a first book. Strangely, this works for me. The lack of intensive exposition building up the world and explaining the character history gives the novel a sense of immediacy – and you find out all you need to as the story moves along.

The world Clark builds is very similar to ours, with the exception of werewolves being out in the open – and being recognised as a separate species/race as human (which is neatly skipped over due to the main characters’ decision not to have children). The wolves in Clark’s alternate America are accepted to the degree that anyone ‘different’ is; some people are really cool about it, some people are wary, some people form hate groups – the prejudice the main character faces is made more complicated by the fact that she is gay (that’s right, lesbian werewolf!).

The sense of the pack in this novel is also quite strong and well defined, even when it is something Ayla is struggling against. I love the fact that after so many novels to the contrary, this is a werewolf novel not focussed on pack heirachy, dominance and sex. It’s just like a club, a big old family, for better or worse. As yet, werewolves are the only supernatural element to the world Clark has built, a fact which the main character, Ayla, laments at one point. It will be interesting to see whether this remains the case as the series progresses, or if more supernatural elements are introduced.

The story opens not long after our main character, Ayla Hammond has moved back to her hometown with her girlfriend, Shannon, after years away. Ayla had run away from home due to the feeling of ostracism she felt at home and in the pack, being a gay wolf in a society prizing offspring, and is now attempting to mend fences with her parents and adjust to life in the pack again after living for years as a lone wolf.

Ayla’s partner Shannon is a PI, and it isn’t long before the mystery/crime element kicks the plot into gear. The case itself is not overly complicated, but it is paced well and the shorter length of the novel really comes into play here – not overly drawing out the plot just for the sake of it. I admit to being a bit annoyed about figuring out one particular plot element chapters before the main character did – but such is often a problem with me, and there’s no real way of knowing whether that was a deliberate choice on the part of the writer – making something transparent to the reader, but not the narrator.

One of the things I liked the most about this novel was how the normal everyday dramas of life were woven in to the story, making it seem all the more real. Ayla had to worry about not having accrued any sick leave at work, and when Shannon and Ayla argue (as most couples do) it’s about things which may appear on the surface to be about the supernatural plot elements but are in fact based on common relationship issues such as lifestyle compromise, family and trust.

All in all, this is a good little novel, and kept me turning the pages faster than I had planned – had to find a new book to finish out the work week with.

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