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Review: Firespell (Dark Elite book 1)

Firespell, the first novel in the Dark Elite series by Chloe Neill was released on January 5, 2010. The second book in the series, Hexbound will be released on January 4, 2011 in paperback and eBook formats.

Description from the author’s website:

As the new girl at the elite St. Sophia’s boarding school, Lily Parker thinks her classmates are the most monstrous things she’ll have to face…

When Lily’s guardians decided to send her away to a fancy boarding school in Chicago, she was shocked. So was St. Sophia’s. Lily’s ultra-rich brat pack classmates think Lily should be the punchline to every joke, and on top of that, she’s hearing strange noises and seeing bizarre things in the shadows of the creepy building.

The only thing keeping her sane is her roommate, Scout, but even Scout’s a little weird—she keeps disappearing late at night and won’t tell Lily where she’s been. But when a prank leaves Lily trapped in the catacombs beneath the school, Lily finds Scout running from a real monster.

Scout’s a member of a splinter group of rebel teens with unique magical talents, who’ve sworn to protect the city against demons, vampires, and Reapers, magic users who’ve been corrupted by their power. And when Lily finds herself in the line of firespell, Scout tells her the truth about her secret life, even though Lily has no powers of her own—at least none that she’s discovered yet…

Beneath the streets of Chicago a group of people meet in secret with the sole purpose of protecting the innocent. They are an exclusive group of young individuals with powers beyond the norm.

They are the Dark Elite and they have the ability to wield magic. Some are spellbinders, some can create firespell, but there are others who are much darker. They aren’t willing to give up their powers before the magic will rot their souls.

They haven’t made the promise to relinquish their power to the universe when they are 25. Instead they choose to keep their powers…at any cost. The price is that they must use Reapers to suck souls in order to sustain themselves. This is the Chicago Lily Parker walked into. But is she “ready to take on evil in the Second City”?

***

Firespell is the first book in a new young adult series by author Chloe Neill. It centers around the main character, Lily Parker who is sent to boarding school in Chicago when her parents get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go on an academic sabbatical at a university in Germany. What she thinks will just be two years of a boring, elitist learning environment turns out to be more than she bargained for.

Her suite-mate Scout is more than just a little unusual, she is in fact an Adept – someone gifted with magical abilities who promises to give them up before they corrupt the body and soul. Lily opens the door to this secret world when she follows Scout on one of her mysterious disappearances. She learns the hard way, by getting hit with firespell, just how very dangerous things can get for those in the Dark Elite.

Although it takes a little awhile for the action to pick up, the beginning is anything but boring. Ms. Neill created a framework for this story that can hold for subsequent books in the series. There are plenty of questions that were presented early on – some more subtle than others – that remain unanswered at stories’ end, leaving a world of possibility for the direction of future books and for many adventures to come.

Both Lily and Scout are characters that readers can relate to, having been abandoned by their parents and shipped off to a school where they don’t quite fit in. And while it took some time to warm up to and connect with Lily, Scout was likable from the very first. Her mischievous and acerbic personality offered a nice contrast to Lily’s more even-tempered one.

Firespell is a very fast read with a few surprise twists throw in – especially as pertains to the “tall, dark, and handsome” Reaper, Sebastian Born, whom readers will definitely see in books to come. This book and series should definitely be added to readers “to-read” lists.

Reviewer gives this book [rating=5]

On a personal note:

I bought this book soon after release in early 2010 but it managed to get lost in the shuffle of the many eBooks I had purchased at the time. I wasn’t too familiar with what this book was about, but the lead-in, “A Novel of the Dark Elite,” was intriguing. And as it was the first book in the series by author Chloe Neill I went ahead with the purchase. (It was actually the author’s adult series, Chicagoland Vampires, that was recommended by Amazon due to my interest in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but I opted for the YA version as it was a new series and no catch-up reading was necessary.)

Then, just a few weeks ago, on a lazy Saturday, I noticed it on my Kindle and decided to read it. And I breezed through it in one sitting. It may not have had the most original premise – teenagers in boarding school, pranks, magic, danger – and was certainly not a weighty book, but it was definitely imaginative with a number of unique elements that made it stand out, and overall was a really nice, fun read and I am so glad that I “discovered” it in my eReader. (And I absolutely loved the irony in the author’s naming of the character Jason Shepherd!)

It sets up well for the next book which I already have on pre-order, and I will not be letting this one linger in my to-reads.

To read chapter one from the author’s website, click here.

To read the first chapter of the upcoming Hexbound, click here. Check back in January for the review.

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