Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shadow Grail #1: Legacies

Legacies is the first novel in a new paranormal YA series called Shadow Grail, written by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill.

It all happened so fast.

One second Spirit White was carefree and comfortable, driving in the backseat of the car with her Mom, Dad, and little sister - next second all she can feel is pain, physically and mentally. When she wakes up in the hospital, she finds out her entire family has died in the accident, and she is alone. Her parents had no family, no relatives to take her in. Plus, after the accident a fire inexplicably burned her home and all her belongings to ash. In her anguish, Spirit is nearly catatonic as the nurses try to help her heal her body - until the news comes.

Apparently her parents arranged for Spirit to be taken in by Oakhurst Academy, a private combination school and orphanage. She's never heard of it, nor does she care. Spirit's mind is otherwise occupied with her grief.

But when the hospital is ready to release her, a limo is sent for her. She's barely noticed as Oakhurst has sent her clothes and other things to replace the ones she lost in the fire, but now she can't avoid it. Glancing through the pamphlets in the limo, she realizes Oakhurst looks like it was funded by billionaires.

Yet she's seen nothing yet. Because once she arrives, Spirit finds out that it isn't just an expensive-furniture-lover's paradise, but a school for the magically gifted. This is quickly proven to her, and though Spirit doesn't seem to manifest any overt magical abilities, unlike the other students she soon meets, the administrators insist that they don't make mistakes.

Despite how unsettling it all is, and the deep ache of missing her family, Spirit does manage to find friends at Oakhurst. But just as she begins to accept her new home, students begin going missing. The teachers don't have good explanations, but the fact that they are trying to cover up the mysteriousness of their absence makes Spirit and her new friends all the more suspicious and worried. What if the school isn't as on their side as they say?

Spirit and her friends are determined to stop whatever's happening before one of them is the next to "run away"...

The opening of Legacies is intense and heart-rending, setting a fast-paced tone that presents mystery and tragedy immediately. One thing I loved about Legacies is how the authors allowed Spirit to feel grief throughout the entire novel. You never forget that she hasn't forgotten, and it doesn't drag the novel down at all - it just gives it a humanity and realism that I appreciate in a YA paranormal novel. The horror and pain continues for poor Spirit, making her instantly sympathetic and easy to root for.

Legacies has an excellent quality of writing - clipped and enjoyable. This style kept me constantly involved and interested. And there are some pretty funny lines of dialogue scattered throughout, especially once we begin meeting the highly colorful and vibrant personalties of Spirit's fellow students.

I felt the way Oakhurst Academy was introduced to the reader was unique, and a different way to present a magic school. It has shades of X-Men, but remains original and interesting, I felt. The authors did a great job peppering Legacies with flashy, fun, buoyant characters that are charismatic and make Legacies even more enjoyable and entertaining to read. Spirit is a really good main character, both strong and vulnerable. She's a heroine that is smart and independent without being mean or overly sarcastic. And once there begins to be questions about the motivations of the administrators of the school itself, I became very intrigued in where the Shadow Grail series will go - and excited.

As Legacies continued it mixed the awesome entertainment factor of the novel with some creepy and riveting paranormal mystery stuff (my lips are sealed), leading to a nerve-shredding climax and satisfying conclusion that left enough open-ended questions to make the sequel (coming out this year) a must read.

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