Combining fast-paced action and immense threats with characters who are more than stereotypes, Hackney produces a young adult fantasy that – while short – is not shallow.
Lia Stone is descended from Dragon-born Guardians, and expected to join them in defending humanity from demonic threats when she comes of age. However, when first her parents and then her grandmother are abducted, she is left neither a mentor nor anyone to initiate her into her powers; and only days until the moment at which her lineage can be unlocked.
While this book is described as Episode 1 of Lia Stone: Demon Hunter, it is a complete story in itself rather than a part-work; and thus will not irritate readers who dislike cliff-hangers. However, this packing of an entire arc into a short space does involve some sacrifice of background depth and subplots, so readers are likely to be left with unanswered questions.
Like many young adult fantasy stories, this novelette features a callow protagonist of exceptional potential. However, Hackney’s combination of a magical seal that denies her most of her powers until released by a ritual and a plot that denies her anyone who could answer her questions, makes this a much more plausible tale of a teenager torn between normal life and superlative competence than some.
The world itself is interesting – containing enough tropes to meet readers’ expectations without becoming a stereotype or pastiche – and Hackney makes full use of Lia’s mentors having disappeared recently to plausibly withhold information from readers while still providing a solid basis for speculation.
This story is still very much a young adult tale. Intense emotional turmoil, especially young lust and self-doubt, play as strong part in the challenges Lia faces as actual supernatural threat. They are, however, not subject to the obsessive focus that marks some YA narratives, sparing readers who are more interested in fantasy than coming of age moments in which they wish to bash characters’ heads together until they stop agonising about the little things.
Overall, I enjoyed this novelette. I recommend it to readers seeking accessible urban fantasy.
I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.