In Halflings, the new YA novel from Heather Burch, a supernatural love triangle collides with hellhounds, wraiths, angels, demons and … high school.
HERE'S THE SITCH:
When Nikki Youngblood took her sketchbook to the woods she certainly didn't expect to end her day racing away from a pack of crazed creatures that reeked of rotting death. Exhausted, with hellhounds on her heels and no escape in sight, Nikki calls on a God she's pretty sure doesn't exist – for help she's fairly certain will not arrive – and loses consciousness.
When Nikki awakens in her bed at home, she assumes it was all a dream. But if it was just a dream, why are her clothes torn and stained with blood? And if that is her blood – and it must be – where is the wound? Shaken and confused, she remembers the terror of the chase and a mysterious song on the wind -- but beyond that, all she can recall is a flash of light … and the most beautiful blue eyes she's ever seen.
Raven, Mace, and Vine are new to Nikki's high school. These three brothers are not just amazingly h-o-t, they are quite possibly the best-looking boys in existence. But Mace's mesmerizing blue eyes are more than a little bit familiar to Nikki, and it seems that no matter where she goes, at least one of those handsome brothers is nearby.
Determined to find out what part Mace and his brothers played in her frightening "dream," Nikki follows them home and discovers that these three gorgeous guys are more than just brothers, they are Halflings: supernatural beings who are half angel and half human. And they have been assigned to protect her from a menacing, mysterious evil.
Attraction doesn't even scratch the surface of how strongly Nikki is drawn to the beautiful, straight-arrow Mace – and the equally stunning bad boy, Raven. As if falling for two not-quite-human boys wasn't bad enough, however, when Nikki realizes what she may be – and how much of her own past has been kept from her – she begins to question everything about her life. What she cannot possibly understand – but the boys know all too well – is that, regardless of which Halfling Nikki chooses to love, if Raven or Mace let themselves fall in love with her they could lose everything – including their chance at Heaven.
HITS & MISSES:
Although Halflings is published by a Christian imprint, fans of current YA trends shouldn't flinch at the inspy label. A well-written, thoroughly thought-out, and utterly addicting read, Halflings draws inspiration from biblical passages – but it doesn't "preach at" the teens for whom it was written. Labels aside, this novel should be considered as competitive among the offerings of mainstream YA's paranormal romance.
Readers who've enjoyed novels by Cynthia Hand and Tammar Stein will find Burch's concept comfortably original, while fans of Stephenie Meyer will likely note themes reminiscent of Twilight. Similarly, while this book is being marketed to teens, it could easily spawn multigenerational appeal. Should T-shirts start popping up declaring "Team Mace" or "Team Raven" I wouldn't be too surprised if I felt led to purchase one.
For my daughter, of course. (Wink.)
TO READ, OR NOT TO READ?
Spunky, capable heroine? Check. Mysterious villains? Check. Motorcycle chases? Check. Romantic sweet guy? Check. Romantic bad boy? Check. Hunky dudes with mad ninja skills … and wings? Check, check and … check! Burch's novel captivated me from the word go – and the hits kept on coming.
Rumors of "Hollywood options" are already buzzing through the blogosphere and a (free) illustrated e-book prequel is now available through several outlets. Combining those tasty details with the way the novel's ending longs for the September 2012 sequel, well … the word "franchise" certainly comes to mind.
I can't say I object. Burch may be riding the coattails of a mainstream trend, but she's giving the fashion a distinctly fresh cut that will allow it to stand out on the angelic romance runway. I'm excited to watch this series take flight – and curious to see where the next book will take what's sure to become a devoted following.
Packed with action, Halflings is stocked with a feisty, likable cast and a fantastically impossible love-triangle that made my heart flutter, race and sigh. This hard-to-put-down novel kept me up late into the night and burrowed itself into my imagination.
(This review first appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog, Happy Ever After)