This is a story about fey (fey in the sense of fairies, rather than elves, or some other meaning) and vampires.
The story centers on characters in their late teens and early twenties (the main character turns eighteen during the story) and the various relationships between those characters. Both the age of the characters (and the setting in a school environment) likely mean the story would be the most interesting to readers in their late teens and early twenties. While it is a “Book 1” of a longer series (the “Fey Touched Trilogy”), it is also a self-contained story (having both a well-defined conclusion and a reasonable lead-in to the next book).
Disclaimer: I received a free digital ARC for this novel. However, both the decision to post a review and the contents of the review are voluntary and my own alone.
The overall story line (spoiler alert for this paragraph) begins with Lizzy and her best friend (Booker) leaving (escaping from?) the Fey realm to search for her vanished mother. They do an unauthorized transport from a fairy circle and end up in the mortal realm, where they are immediately attacked by a rabid female vampire (which we learn are called “Kavian”). They are rescued by a non-Kavian vampire (Andric) and end up temporarily enrolled at the Speculo School (for vampires). During their time at the school, they form a number of relationships (both positive and negative) and learn some martial arts (taught by Andric) but gain little from the educational experience itself. However, during their stay, one of their teachers (Hilda Gladstone) turns into a rabid Kavian and escapes the school. Through the process of chasing her down, Lizzy discovers that her mother is still alive, and gains some clues as to how to proceed in tracking her down.
There were several things I liked about the story:
Reveals and twists. While there are no shortage of fey/vampire stories, this one is distinguished by the author doing an excellent job with periodic reveals and story twists. While I don’t want to avoid the fun by giving any of these away *GRIN*, I will say I was surprised multiple times where I expected the story to go one way, and *BOOM* there would be a reveal or a twist, and it would go somewhere totally different.
Some clever spins on the usual fey/vampire tropes. A great example is the story beginning, where Lizzy and Booker escape through a fairy circle. This is not your grandmother’s fairy circle, by the way; but more of a 22nd century version (with guards and glowshrooms and the like). There is also some interesting politics with the Fey, with them being simultaneously isolationist, xenophobic, and (curiously) pacifistic. Similarly, there is some equally interesting politics between the Fey and the vampires, with some unusual (and unexpected) tensions around the setting up of the Fey world.
High-school clique politics. The book has a disturbingly accurate portrayal of high school “clique” dynamics. (As an aside, it has been many years since I went to high school, and, as near as I can tell; not one thing has changed in all that time …)
More romantic than sexual: The story emphasizes the romantic relationships between the characters much more than the sexual relationships. While the book is most certainly not 1950s on this topic, it is more restrained than many recent publications intended for this age group.
There were also some things that I struggled with.
Lizzy and her tantrums. I can probably find a more tactful way of putting it, but the main character seems to be either (1) erupting in a rage, (2) stomping off in a rage, or (3) being talked down from a rage. While losing her mother does provide (some) justification for this, the character came across (to me at least) as being both spoiled and entitled.
Too much trust by the protagonists for the big things (and not taking advantage of unexpected opportunities for the little things). Lizzy and Booker escape into the mortal realm, and immediately make a verbal (i.e. not written) deal with the headmaster AND give up their jewelry (i.e. their only means of support). Once enrolled in classes, they go passive-aggressive on their teachers and consciously avoid learning anything. Both of these seem like Very Bad Strategies for “our heroes” (think sex trafficking in the first case, and avoiding the opportunity to acquire critical information for survival in unfamiliar location in the second).
The fight scene between Lizzy and Nameer in C-32. I am not going to do a spoiler on this, but I question whether this scene was a good idea for this age group. Yes, vampires have unnatural healing ability, but STILL.
The scene between Nameer and Logan in C-39. I am not going to do a spoiler on this one either, but this scene raises serious ethical issues. As with the above, I question whether this scene was a good idea for this age group.