Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair


Unrated | 480 pages | Paranormal YA | Katherine Tegen Books | Release Date: 07/02/2019

The Beckoning Shadow feels like a unicorn of a book in the world of YA because it's paranormal and...get this..it is standalone.

Vesper Montgomery was your average caramel frappuccino-drinking-carefree, high school cheerleader--until she discovers she is an Oddity-- a  human with superhuman powers that have to be kept hidden unless she wants to risk the wrath of the mysterious Wardens. Vesper has the rare ability to control and pull out people's fears. When she loses control of her powers she becomes a danger to her family and decides to run.

Then one night in San Francisco Vesper stumbles upon a crew of Oddities who are putting their powers to use in a series of underground cage matches for the chance to undo one moment from their lives. Vesper wants in. This former high school cheerleader ditches the pom-poms for a pair of boxing gloves and the cage match of her life.

I jumped at a chance to review this book because I've always wondered why the popularity of MMA fighting in New Adult has never leaked over to YA since most fighters start young.

To win the competition Vesper teams up with Sam, a young human MMA fighter who knows more about the world of Oddities that he should.  There was just the right amount of stakes and plot to keep this book going but then Blair introduces a murder mystery which was interesting but a lot of the reveals were like ..."Hey, remember that guy? He's really THAT GUY" it fell a little flat.

On one level I like that this book is genre-savvy, it sort of breaks the fourth wall to poke fun at the "let's start a rebellion" trope you see in most YA. The stakes aren't about changing the world order-- but about the characters having a chance to overcome their personal shortcomings. The different types of power are unique and I thought it was really creative how Vesper uses her power to pull out fears to fight.

On the other hand, I also think the world-building was revealed in such a strange way. Like we don't get a feel of how Oddieties fit into the normal (as they call it Baseline) world. Vesper mentions that everyone has heard the stories of Oddities, yet no humans ever talk about it. Its's like...what stories? It gets ironed out in a  pretty big exposition dump, but I think trying to construct the world distracted me until it was fully explained.

With that said I'm ready for paranormal YA to have a big comeback. Blair has solid pacing and writes vivid action scenes. This gave me some 2010's YA feels, I'm curious to see what this author does next.

Nitpick
I think the title of this book does it a serious disservice. It just sounds like every other YA Fantasy. I couldn't remember the title of this book for anything. The characters have a strong relationship with the poem Invictus... why couldn't that be the title?

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