Firespell: Best appreciated by its target audience

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsChloe Neill The Dark Elite 1. FirespellFirespell by Chloe Neill

There are YA books that translate well to an adult audience, and there are those that are best appreciated by their actual target audience. I suspect Firespell is one of the latter. I found it an average read, but I think I’d have really liked it at the age of thirteen or so.

Case in point: Here is how magic works in the Dark Elite series. If someone has magical talent, that talent manifests at puberty. From puberty to the age of twenty-five, the magic is a really cool enhancement. But after the age of twenty-five, the person must give up magic, or else it becomes a corrupting (and addictive) force. The people who don’t give up their magic, called Reapers, have to steal the life force of young people in order to keep exercising their powers.

I keep thinking about this as a metaphor, and about how well it fits the way I saw the world when I was a teenager. I would look at adults back then and it always seemed that some of them had given up some essential “spark” they’d once had, and that others got a kick out of making sure none of the younger generation got to have any fun.Dark Elite (3 Book Series) by Chloe Neill

Moving on to the plot, Firespell is a novel in the “teen goes to boarding school and discovers magic” vein. Lily, the heroine, is sent to a posh girls’ boarding school in Chicago while her parents travel to Germany for research. She quickly finds a friend in quirky Scout, whose mysterious nocturnal excursions arouse Lily’s curiosity. She makes enemies, too, in the form of a trio of “mean girls.” When she learns that Scout’s secret is that she’s part of a team of magical adepts, her life changes forever…

The friendships are great; I really loved Scout and sweet, nerdy Lesley. I mostly liked Lily, too, though she had a moment about halfway through the book where she did something both unwise and insensitive, and had me mad at her for a while. Another strength of the book is Chloe Neill’s portrayal of Chicago. It’s one of my favorite cities and I had a strong sense of being there while reading the book.

There’s a romance, too, though it’s a bit skimpy. Lily seems mostly interested in Jason because he’s good-looking, and the two of them spend way too much time snubbing each other. An older reader may find this annoying.

Firespell is just a beginning; Neill introduces a lot of ideas and doesn’t explore them all here. For that, you’ll have to continue on to the next book, Hexbound.

Published in 2010. From the author of the Chicagoland Vampires novels. A new series about a boarding school filled with something worse than homework. Lily’s parents have sent her to a fancy boarding school in Chicago filled with the ultra-rich. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s hearing and seeing bizarre things on St. Sophie’s creepy campus. Her roommate, Scout, keeps her sane, but keeps disappearing at night. When one day Lily finds Scout running from real-life monsters, she learns the hard way that Scout is involved in a splinter group of rebel teens. They protect Chicago from demons, vamps, and dark magic users. It’s too bad Lily doesn’t have powers of her own to help. At least, none that she’s discovered yet…

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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