A paranormal debut about a high school senior who finds herself in a fight with a secret society for control of ancient magic.
Julia never believed in magic.
Julia Long is starting her senior year with an extra dose of crazy. The dreams of cultish, bloody rituals are weird enough, but the victim in her lifelike dreams is her new classmate, Southern charmer Graham.
Graham admits he was a Phoenix - part of a centuries old secret society - but swears he left it all behind. As Julia works with Graham to figure out why she is dreaming about his past, she's discovering she has other abilities. She heals Graham's migraines with a touch, and there's her superhuman strength that comes and goes. Julia doesn't know where her new talents come from, but there's no denying that when Graham is near, her powers kick into overdrive.
But the Phoenix Society wants Graham back. They need his blood to awaken the magic they seek, and they'll do whatever it takes to get it back.
Can Julia uncover the truth behind her connection to Graham? How far will Julia go in order to save Graham and stop the Phoenixes from harnessing this powerful magic?
Phoenix Awakens by Eliza Nolan
Release: 12 October 2015
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Rating: 3 Stars
This story had a lot of good elements: magic, teenager with a missing parent, a secret society. It has all the markings of a good beginning to a series, which is good because this is apparently book one.
While there were a lot of good points, I felt that there were a few other things that detracted from the story that, had they been rectified, could have led to a stronger narrative overall.
The Good Parts
- The plot has a great scope and could very well become at least a trilogy, if the author decides to go that way. There's a lot of history that could be explored, particularly regarding Julia's family.
- The concept of powers that come and go was interesting, even if it did have some difficult parts. It's bad enough, right, when you're suddenly saddled with magical powers, but to not even know when they'll appear or how to control them? Scary.
- Minneapolis was an interesting choice for the majority of the setting. I don't think I've ever read a book set there, so that was a nice change. I hope to hear more details about the town Julia lives in next time around.
- The mythology set up was another unique aspect that I think was really interesting and could be really great if it's expanded. Julia's mother's family is Turkish in history and that opens up a world of legends that haven't been explored in recent young adult literature. These days there are a lot of works about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. What would an in-depth exploration of Julia's family reveal?
The Not So Good Parts
- The first 50% of the book dragged on quite a lot. There was too much focus on Julia's ordinary day when it could have been summed up much quicker. The plot would have benefited from this in that it would have moved along quicker and gotten to the point.
- There were a couple characters that I didn't feel were fleshed out very well. Graham, for instance, did not seem to have much going so far as a personality. I would have liked some time taken to discover more about what he was like. All I've got is that he's a guy who got into a bad situation, left, and is the love interest.
- Samantha was another character that seemed out of place. She felt like little more than a plot device and not a particularly successful one. I see it as this: everything she "taught" Julia could have easily been Googled. There were some connections regarding the trains that were important, yes, but her development felt weak.
- Julia was a bit trying at times. She read younger than seventeen a lot of the time in her words and her thoughts.
- Aydan, Julia's dream guide, is never really explained. Who is she? Why is she appearing in Julia's dream? The only clue we get is that they're related somehow.
- Why does Julia dream about Graham's past and the things that happened to Clara? This doesn't really get explained either. I assume it has something to do with the Phoenixes and her powers, but that's simple guesswork on my part.
- Is Julia's mother really dead? There's speculation that whoever was supposed to kill her might not have. Which is it? This, while unanswered, is something I can live with waiting for until the next book.
What with the pull that exists between Graham and Julia, how fate seems to tie them together, I thought this song would be an appropriate choice. It reminded me also of the beginning, when Julia is watching Graham hang out with Libby and the other girls at school before realizing that Julia is who he's supposed to be with in terms of the story.
Special Excerpt from Phoenix Awakens
I rush down the wooded path as fast as I can. My legs throb and my lungs burn as I rush down the wooded path as fast as I can. My legs throb and my lungs burn as a I push forward through the night.
I should be heading in the other direction, away from danger, but my survival instinct is overpowered by an even deeper need. A need so primal I can't name it; I only feel its pull and have to obey.
A man's yell cuts through the forest. I race even faster towards the bloodcurdling sound. But when I get there, it's too late. I hide behind a tree at the edge of the clearing.
Light from a bonfire illuminates a group of men in hooded cloaks. At their feet kneels a teenage boy. He's wearing jeans and nothing else. Blood drips down his chest from fresh cuts. One of the men stands over him, a bloody knife in his hand. The boy wavers on his knees and collapses to the ground. The others move away, leaving him where he lies, motionless.
The shuffle of their feet fades as they towards the swamp.
The only sound left is the racing thump, thump of my heart, so loud I'm sure all the creatures in the forest can hear. I tiptoe out into the clearing and, seeing no one else, rush over to the guy. Still breathing, he is curled up in a ball on the ground. His body is covered in a mixture of dirt and his own blood. So much blood!
"Hey." My voice comes out in an unsteady whisper. "Are you okay?"
He turns to face me and I startle when I recognize him.
My hands shake as I reach out to him. I brush his shoulder with my fingertips and sharp pain shoots through them and up my arm. It's like a million pink pricks at once.
I jerk my hand away, crying out.
About the Author
Eliza Nolan was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She lived in Charleston, South Carolina, for a few years, after which she return to icy Minnesota where she now lives with her two cats in a house smaller than your closet.
She is an avid reader and writer of YA. She has ghostwritten a novel or two, but also writes her own stuff and is finally getting ready (to get ready) to publish her debut young adult urban fantasy novel, Phoenix Awakens.
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