Sixteen-year-old Kiara Noir, living on a Colorado reservation, running a farmstand, and overachieving in homeschooling wants to explore the world and become a famous photographer.
Her wanderlust was getting the better of her. Only her mother won’t let her leave.
The family was a mystery. It was just Kiara and her mother, Willow, transplanted to the reservation.
Kiara assumed they were witches. The cloaked ceremonies’, the bloodletting and chanting, the miracle potions her mother made, and the half-birthdays to celebrate death, all pointed to witchery in Kiara’s eyes until a visitor arrived on her half-birthday.
An Aunt who was not entirely human.
The wish to leave is suddenly forced as Kiara and her mother travel back to the homeland, an enchanted kingdom of Willow's childhood, to find the truth about who she really is.
Kiara struggles to learn a culture and customers foreign to her costing her freedom and having to choose between a simple life back home that she never wanted, or sacrificing everything, including death, for the greater good.
Plot/Idea: Even though Kiara's mother has made it clear that she is not allowed to leave the reservation, Kiara dreams of a faraway journey to pursue her passion for photography. The engaging story offers compelling promises of adventure and discovery beyond the familiar, though it comes with great risk to Kiara and her mother.
Prose: Eglington is a skillful writer, able to craft dialogue that flows naturally while establishing a solid sense of place that will transport readers into Kiara's world.
Originality: Themes of preserving land, sovereignty, and culture abound in this engrossing story, and Eglington's fresh perspective on a popular premise will resonate with readers.
Character/Execution: Eglington's characters are multilayered and allow readers to discover the complexities of their darker feelings, while uncovering buried secrets that give the story an almost feverish intensity.
Date Submitted: June 22, 2023
In this assured series starter, Eglington (author of the Pike Evans series) delivers imaginative fantastical world building with unique characterizations sure to delight fantasy lovers of all ages. Willow’s homeland is a vast underground kingdom that rests in a delicate symbiotic relationship with humans on the topside. Preserving nature plays a pivotal role in the balance and survival of the worlds, as Kiara discovers she is in a position of great power, with the fate of the land resting on her young shoulders. Heartbreak and sorrow, valiant action sequences, and a vast array of character-developing trials and tribulations await Kiara on her epic adventure. With each step forward or stumble backwards, she proves to be a courageous young woman readers will instantly connect with.
Eglington’s languid prose invites readers to marinate in the rich settings, original cultures, and ongoing tension, though the final act progresses at a quicker pace, hurrying to tie up loose ends. Even so, Eglington expertly drops enough delicious morsels to excite readers for future books. Fantasy fans seeking a well-crafted world with plentiful suspense and a memorable, relatable protagonist will find this gripping tale enticing.
Takeaway: Gripping epic fantasy adventure puts a reservation teen’s courage to the test.
Comparable Titles: Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones, Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
Review by K.C. Finn
5 Stars - Congratulations on your 5-star review! Get your free 5-star seal!
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
Born Torn is a work of fiction in the fantasy, social issues, and interpersonal drama subgenres, and it forms part of the Kiara Noir Mother Nature book series. Penned by author Suz Eglington, the work is best suited to the mature YA reading audience. The story follows Kiara Noir, a young girl who has spent her life confined to a Colorado reservation, unaware of her extended family or her father's identity, yearning for a greater purpose and adventure in life. As Kiara approaches her sixteenth and a half-birthday, she becomes determined to break free from the strange rituals her mother imposes upon her. With a new list of dreams, including travel, attending college off the reservation, and becoming a renowned photographer, Kiara's life takes an unexpected turn when her aunt arrives and reveals a shocking possibility that Kiara may not be entirely human.
Author Suz Eglington has crafted a compelling tale of self-discovery, challenging choices, and personal growth. Our protagonist Kiara is faced with a pivotal decision that will determine her destiny, and the reader is drawn into this intense journey of identity and purpose, feeling the weight of her choices and the impending consequences with every clever moment of speech and thought presentation. One of the features of the work I especially enjoyed was the exploration of complex emotional themes and empowerment, cast against a moody, atmospheric backdrop and a compelling narrative that blends elements of self-discovery, the supernatural, and the timeless struggle between personal desires and the greater good. Overall, Born Torn is a must-read for fans of thrilling and introspective stories that leave a lasting impact.
Born Torn: Kiara Noir Mother Nature Series
by Suz Eglington
book review by Michael Radon
"If I fudged this up, then there would be severe consequences. It was absolute power. I was the monopoly."
Kiara Noir is turning sixteen-and-a-half years old soon, and her wanderlust is getting the better of her. Kiara and her mother are transplants living on a Native American reservation in Colorado, far away from most other people. Independent and strong-willed, Kiara routinely butts heads with her mother about wanting to see the world and go to college while her mother, Willow, insists that they must stay where they are. Kiara is filled with questions about her father, their life, and her mother’s folksy knowledge of herbs and rituals, adding to Kiara’s frustrations. On the exact day between her previous and next birthday, Kiara is given permission to go out into the wild and take pictures with her new camera lens. Suddenly, her reality comes crashing down around her.
Mysterious icy creatures and a woman claiming to be Kiara’s Aunt Jade appear and throw mother and daughter’s peaceful lives into turmoil. Forced to leave their home and travel to a mysterious enchanted kingdom to assure their safety, Kiara and Willow return to the secret lands of Willow’s childhood. Here, Kiara is forced to reckon with a culture and customs completely foreign to her, alongside dangerous creatures and relatives that want her gone. However, this castle and these lands hold the secrets to her heritage, the strange powers that are unlocking within her, and even the identity of her father. Torn between two worlds, Kiara must ultimately make a decision that will decide her fate, and perhaps the fate of many others. Will she return to her old life and leave behind a past she never wanted, or will she learn her place among the ruling class of a world she never knew existed?
Kiara has the makings of the next young adult fiction megastar. Her snarky comments, paired with a caring and considerate heart, make her a compassionate, if reluctant, hero. Meanwhile, her growing aptitude for magic gives her the ability to take charge of incredible action scenes. Readers will spend much of this introductory book empathizing with Kiara’s fish-out-of-water situation, as her mother is forced to withhold vital information for her safety even as everyone around her expects certain behaviors or responses. A constant sense of danger keeps readers from becoming complacent as threats are constantly cropping up for Kiara to deal with. In time, her arsenal of abilities grows, making every successive crisis more dynamic than the last. Every character has the potential to become either an ally or enemy, and only as the story unfolds can both Kiara and the reader make those decisions for themselves.
The setting blends a kind of anachronistic medieval fantasy with elements of magical realism and ecological activism in a way that gives this story cross-genre appeal. Scenes of horror, drama, action, and romance give each chapter multifaceted development and aim to please readers regardless of their literary preferences. Younger readers may be affected by scenes of violence or horrific monsters, but teenagers and older readers will appreciate the intensity that the story often delves into. The journey is difficult and full of unfair heartbreak that leaves the audience craving a resolution and a happy ending for Kiara, but with more books to come in this new series, this origin story will leave readers hungry to discover what happens next.