Release Date: 4/28/15
17-year-old Lila Merriweather lives in Cloudburst Falls, also known as “the most magical place in America”. Having lost both her parents, and living in the library’s basement, she divides her time between school and running “errands” for pawnbroker Mo Kaminsky. Despite having some magical talents of her own, she tries to stay under the radar and out of the feuds between the three powerful Families that run the town. That is until the day that Devon Sinclair walks into Mo’s shop, and she winds up saving his life. Now she’s reluctantly accepted the position of bodyguard to Devon which given the sparks that fly between them, and the upgrade in living arrangements, shouldn’t be too difficult. But things rarely are ever that easy, for people who get involved with the Families wind up dead. Her own mother was murdered by one of them, and now it looks like Lila might suffer the same fate.
Being a huge fan of Jennifer Estep’ s adult series the Elemental Assassin, as well as her YA Mythos Academy, I started jumping up and down when I spied this on NetGalley. I imagine I looked something like this:
After all, what’s not to like? It’s not only full of magical creatures like pixies, monsters, trolls, etc. but feuding Mafia style families? Awesome! Then as I began reading I was filled with a familiar sense of deja vu. Lila survives as a pickpocket and makes her home in a secret room in the town’s library. Hmm. Where did I read this before? Oh yeah! Just like Echo in Girl at Midnight. As much as I appreciate a snarky, kick-ass heroine, I was starting to feel a little skeptical.
But happily, as I continued reading, the similarities bothered me less and less. First of all, there’s the concept of Cloudburst Falls. A magical community visited by tourists, and run by three constantly battling Families was just fantastic. Jennifer Estep’ s greatest strength is her world building, and this was no exception. From the description of the town and it’s inhabitants, to the history of the Families, and the talents that magic users wield, she skillfully draws you into the story. Then there’s the characters. I love strong female characters, and even though Lila is similar to ones I’ve read in other books, she retains some unique qualities. She’s extremely smart, and has a good handle on her priorities. After accepting an offer she can’t refuse from Devon’s mother Claudia, the head of the Sinclair family, she discovers that it now may be possible to finally discover who murdered her mother three years earlier. She goes from hiding out in the library, to living in a luxurious mansion! She even scores her own pixie. So what if Oscar is a little surly and spends the majority of his time getting drunk and listening to country music. The little guy actually does grow on you. The dynamic between Devon and Lila was a little too “love at first sight”, but it grew on me. Even though Lila is providing security for him, Devon is pretty good at taking care of himself. His job as the Sinclair’s Bruiser is to protect the family’s interests, so he’s more than an equal partner for Lila. Best of all, there’s no love triangle! Not even the hint of one! The secondary characters are realistically written and I especially liked Mo, and Devon’ s best friend Felix, who sort of has a Romeo and Juliet thing going with the daughter of a rival family. The identity of the villain isn’t a big surprise, but the way that he’s vanquished is priceless. When I finished the book I found myself wanting to go live in Cloudburst Falls, warts and all. I think this is a good beginning to what has the potential to be an exciting new series.