Eighteen-year-old Alex Chegasa, one of the first generation to be raised on post-apocalyptic Earth, was taught to embrace her magical gifts.
After the Orange, as the planet burned, magic trickled in. The bombs that had wiped out most life ripped open the barrier between worlds. Can the next generation, connected to the magic, be the solution to mankind’s problems or are they destined to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors?
Did the Orange, the very thing that ravaged the planet, also provide the solution? Or is magic more than a coincidence?
While Alex searches for somewhere to belong, in Massachusetts, she questions if survival is enough when she comes to understand that magic, used by the wrong people, could be more dangerous than the power of the generations before her.
Meanwhile, in a parallel story, we meet eight-hundred-year-old Fae, Billey NicNevin. With a past she doesn’t remember, she struggles to fit into Nuadh Caled (New Scotland) as it rebuilds itself. When she meets a woman whose soul calls to her, will she find her missing piece or tumble into insanity?
Are their destinies connected?
WHAT IF THE FANTASTICAL STORIES FROM ALEX’S CHILDHOOD WERE TRUE?
Friendship, danger, deception, and the power of communing with nature power the narrative. Hall’s characters are engaging, and the story diverges from typical dystopia, imbuing several main players with supernatural skills that give them an advantage in the wasteland. Iggy, one of Alex’s fellow travelers, has magical abilities similar to her own, and he takes on the task of convincing Alex to hide her magic from people who may exploit it–notably the charismatic Jericho, founder of a utopian-like island. When Billey begins to question her identity, and experiences a brutal attack on her foster parents, she discovers her hidden life and returns home to assume responsibilities, including ensuring Alex’s survival.
Hall strikes a believable, chillingly familiar chord with the Orange event that poisons the land, kills many people, and forces those who survive to fight for dwindling resources. The plotting can get tricky, especially as Hall incorporates a variety of elements from multiple genres, and the complex, worlds-crossing mysteries of Billey’s past and Alex’s future at times diminish the narrative momentum. For those fans seeking a fresh interpretation of a dystopian future, with a touch of magic and a sense of the power of nature, this story hits the spot.
Takeaway: This kickoff to a genre-mixing post-apocalyptic saga emphasizes friendship, danger, and the power of nature.
Great for fans of: Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga, Mike Carey’s Book of Koli.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Survivors of an apocalypse discover a new world in this YA fantasy.
Alex Chegasa turns 18 years old today. She’s one of the few who lived through "the Orange,” a world-destroying event involving bombs. She lives in Danvers, Massachusetts, in an old school with her adoptive guardians, Danny and Calesta. While rummaging through abandoned homes for “trinkets,” Alex uses her power of detecting auras to sense a presence nearby. The entity is a dog, whom Alex names Jen, after her dead mother. Later, Alex, her guardians, and friends Roberto and Abi venture into the town of Salem. When they meet another band of survivors who are armed, tragedy strikes. Alex goes home and uses her Firestone, a gift from her mother, to burn down her past and start fresh. She decides to search for Jericho, a benevolent community. Meanwhile, in the distant Bearaig, a teen named Billey NicNevin lives with her “State-sponsored” family. She suffers an abiding loneliness that’s only lessened by her bond with trees. One day, she meets a “beautiful young woman” named Geilis, who comes and goes like a spirit. Neither Billey nor Alex fathoms that each one shares a hidden connection to the fae King Arthanius Chegasa, ruler of a place called Spirismus. Can Alex and her new companion, Iggy Dragonrider Thrumblar, escape Jericho to learn more? Hall begins a new series with ambitious worldbuilding and a tantalizing narrative structure. Alex and Billey’s chapters alternate with first-person perspectives, keeping events intimate and on parallel tracks. Many genre tropes entwine, including apocalyptic survivors developing powers and a scandal happening in the fae courts. A deep exploration of character emotions ensures careful pacing, so casual fantasy fans may need patience as the separate arcs build toward each other. Alex’s romance with the equally powerful Iggy is intriguing as “his feelings confused me, and I wanted to read him but knew he would know, would repel my energy.” Throughout, nature is lauded as a healing power, and the message that society should be more than just “a group of people living in the same place” is excellent.
The author plays the long game in this engaging, layered, slow-burning fantasy series opener.