"If I fudged this up, then there would be severe consequences. It was absolute power. I was the monopoly."

Kiara Noir is turning sixteen-and-a-half years old soon, and her wanderlust is getting the better of her. Kiara and her mother are transplants living on a Native American reservation in Colorado, far away from most other people. Independent and strong-willed, Kiara routinely butts heads with her mother about wanting to see the world and go to college while her mother, Willow, insists that they must stay where they are. Kiara is filled with questions about her father, their life, and her mother’s folksy knowledge of herbs and rituals, adding to Kiara’s frustrations. On the exact day between her previous and next birthday, Kiara is given permission to go out into the wild and take pictures with her new camera lens. Suddenly, her reality comes crashing down around her.

Mysterious icy creatures and a woman claiming to be Kiara’s Aunt Jade appear and throw mother and daughter’s peaceful lives into turmoil. Forced to leave their home and travel to a mysterious enchanted kingdom to assure their safety, Kiara and Willow return to the secret lands of Willow’s childhood. Here, Kiara is forced to reckon with a culture and customs completely foreign to her, alongside dangerous creatures and relatives that want her gone. However, this castle and these lands hold the secrets to her heritage, the strange powers that are unlocking within her, and even the identity of her father. Torn between two worlds, Kiara must ultimately make a decision that will decide her fate, and perhaps the fate of many others. Will she return to her old life and leave behind a past she never wanted, or will she learn her place among the ruling class of a world she never knew existed?

Kiara has the makings of the next young adult fiction megastar. Her snarky comments, paired with a caring and considerate heart, make her a compassionate, if reluctant, hero. Meanwhile, her growing aptitude for magic gives her the ability to take charge of incredible action scenes. Readers will spend much of this introductory book empathizing with Kiara’s fish-out-of-water situation, as her mother is forced to withhold vital information for her safety even as everyone around her expects certain behaviors or responses. A constant sense of danger keeps readers from becoming complacent as threats are constantly cropping up for Kiara to deal with. In time, her arsenal of abilities grows, making every successive crisis more dynamic than the last. Every character has the potential to become either an ally or enemy, and only as the story unfolds can both Kiara and the reader make those decisions for themselves.

The setting blends a kind of anachronistic medieval fantasy with elements of magical realism and ecological activism in a way that gives this story cross-genre appeal. Scenes of horror, drama, action, and romance give each chapter multifaceted development and aim to please readers regardless of their literary preferences. Younger readers may be affected by scenes of violence or horrific monsters, but teenagers and older readers will appreciate the intensity that the story often delves into. The journey is difficult and full of unfair heartbreak that leaves the audience craving a resolution and a happy ending for Kiara, but with more books to come in this new series, this origin story will leave readers hungry to discover what happens next.

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