Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Name Is Raven - And I Need Your Help

Trickster's Girl
~Trickster's Girl~
The Raven Duet
Book 1
By Hilari Bell
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

In the later part of the 21st century, it seems humanity has finally taken an active interest in preserving the planet. But with a strange tree plague ravaging South America, their efforts may be too little too late. Scientists are at a loss in explaining why their efforts aren't yielding any results—logically, the forests should have fought it off by now.

Fortunately, there are people who know how to stop it.
Unfortunately, most of them aren't on humanity's side.

The night 15-year-old Kelsa Phillips buries her father, she's approached by a strange boy. Raven, as he calls himself, claims that the world is actually held together by magic. If that wasn't crazy enough, he expects Kelsa to join him in healing the magic that humanity has weakened by traveling from Utah to Alaska. Cause magic is what is keeping the tree plague going. And what's giving so many people cancer. Either this Raven kid is crazy, or he thinks she's stupid enough to believe him.

But if magic isn't real, then how can he unlock things with merely a touch? And how did he just shapeshift? And how is it he's managed to convince her to rob a museum? Well, however he did it, Kelsa is in for the long haul. Cause once she starts something, she always finishes. Well, if she doesn't end up in jail...or worse...

I first received an ARC of this book from Netgalley, but procrastinated long enough for it to be released (yeah, really bad about that) so I figured I might as well get a finished copy from my library. I then managed to procrastinate long enough that I was forced to read it the day/night before it was due back. Good job, me. -_- That being said, I don't think I was in the best state of mind when starting this. Not only did I have the stress of reading it at the last minute, but I was also feeling a bit down and was looking forward to an escape. In that respect, I was definitely let down.

The book starts off right away with Kelsa at her dad's funeral. He died after a lengthy struggle with cancer. She's ticked off at her mom, has shut herself off from friends, and is all-in-all pissed off at the world for letting this happen. Definitely not the cheeriest escape I could have planned.

I found Kelsa very hard to like at first. I mostly understood why she felt the way she did, but her unbridled animosity toward everyone (especially her mother) didn't make her very endearing. I respected her love for her lost father and I was impressed by her determination to do things her way (as she liked to remind us, "I always finish what I've started."), but her overall attitude wasn't appealing at all. I was still very much on the fence about the book at my minimum-reading-point, page 50.

Luckily, right after page 50 the action picked up. Once she was thrown out of her comfort zone (aka "I know everything because my dad taught me science") and given a real goal, her stubbornness gained a productive outlet and she became much more likable. Thankfully, her personality only gets stronger as the story progresses, and I never found myself gritting my teeth at a relapse. She's a fun, strong, realistic character who easily owns the narrative and makes it a pleasure to read.

Raven, on the other hand, was an instant draw for me. He's funny, mysterious, sarcastic, a bit on the cocky side... But he's definitely not boyfriend material. That point is made clear pretty regularly throughout the book. Every time I thought, Wow, they're getting pretty close. I wonder if- I (and Kelsa) would get slammed with a reminder that Raven is not human, has no desire to be human, and is not about to change his mind because of a 15-year-old girl. I loved that he was consistent on who he was and why he was there. That's not to say he goes completely unchanged through the course of the story, but when you're dealing with someone well over 1000 years-old, you're not going to see that much difference in a few weeks.

I loved the world they were in. I will admit that in reading summaries, I couldn't figure out how science and magic mixed, but I was pleasantly surprised at how Bell made them flow together. It may be a bit hard to see upon first picking up the book, but the explanations throughout make it easy to follow. It's also pretty easy to believe it's real.

My only complaint was with the ending. I knew right off that this was to be a duet, so I knew that the story wouldn't be completely over at the end of this book. But...I still didn't expect it to end the way it did. Don't worry, it's not a cut-off-in-the-middle-of-a-sentence ending. In fact, it's really not a cliffhanger of any sort, and I think that's what disappointed me. I won't give anything more away, but I will say I'm eager to read more about Raven and Kelsa, though I have a feeling I won't get my wish.

Overall, Trickster's Girl was a surprisingly fun, original, and inspirational story. The beginning can be a bit of a downer, but I found it a fitting start to a journey of healing. A unique blend of Science Fiction and Urban Fantasy, this book is sure to delight fans of either genre. Strong language is non-existent (due to government mandate) and sex is not an issue (though fear of rape is mentioned once or twice), so I believe younger readers will enjoy it as well. A great message, a strong heroine, a quirky guide, and a gorgeous cover—where can you go wrong?

Approximate Reading Time: 5 hours