I was sent an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.
I had been aware of The Gift Legacy series and its author for a while, and felt curious about it, but as happens sometimes when I discover a series with several books published already, I never seemed to find the time to catch up on it, and the collection kept growing. When I heard that the series was being relaunched with new covers and titles, I grabbed the opportunity to finally start reading it. And I’m pleased I did.
It is a bit difficult to talk about this novel without revealing too much of what happens, but from the description, you can probably guess some important aspects of it. Emelynn, or Em, as she is known, is the protagonist and first-person narrator of the book. We meet her at an inflection point in her life. She’s finished her studies and has decided that it is time to tackle her “gift”. Her dreams and memories give us a good understanding of the background to her situation and how she came to be in possession of her gift, at least to the extent she understands it. After all, she was a young girl and she was never given much information about what had happened to her. We also learn about her personal life, the death of her father, the move to Toronto, her mother’s taking refuge in her work, and Em’s difficulties fitting in, partly (mostly) caused by her gift. Although she found ways to deal with the disruption to her life caused by the gift, from a practical perspective, she had never been able to have a “normal” life, and that had made her decide to go back to the cottage where her family lived when she was a child, as it was more remote, it had always felt like a refuge and a safe-place to her, and it would give her the breathing space to experiment.
Her plan works although not in the way she intended, and she gets into contact with people who can guide her and teach her to tame her gift, although this is not at first evident to her. Having grown up hiding things and never trusting anyone, she finds it difficult to trust these strangers whose agendas she does not fully understand, and who seem to keep some things under wraps. Despite her initial reluctance, Em discovers a new world, a new group of people she finally belongs to, and a level of skill and power she had never suspected. But things don’t run smoothly: there are threats, mysterious forces at work, and missions that have to be accomplished. And of course, romance and love don’t always mix well with such complications.
I know first-person-narrations are a bit like marmite for readers: some love them and others don’t. In this particular case, Em’s narration is perfect for the story. Although she has a gift (or power, although at times it feel like a curse to her), she does not understand it, and readers have the privilege of experiencing with her the thrill of discovery, the fear of the unknown, her suspicions of the motives of the new people that come into her life, and we also learn about her and what makes her tick. In contrast to many books with a paranormal aspect where characters discover a power or an ability they knew nothing about, Em doesn’t just wake up one day and is somebody completely different, proficient at her ability, and a total kick-ass hero. She has doubts, she hesitates, she does not always want to push the boundaries, she gets tired and sleeps in, she feels pain, she gets hungry, she lacks in self-confidence and doubts herself, she makes mistakes and misjudges people, she feels bad for not phoning her mother… In sum, she is a pretty normal human being, sometimes low and sometimes happy, with a good sense of humour and of observation, and it is easy to empathise with her, even if we might not have much in common with her.
She is also a young woman with zero love experience, and she seems to fall in love easily, perhaps because she had been trying so hard and for so long to block those kinds of feelings. There are sex scenes in the book, and although they are not the most explicit I’ve ever read, they are explicit and this is not a sweet and clean romance. I am not fond of sex scenes, although at least her first time is not totally unrealistic, as it often happens in romances, but yes, I won’t talk too much about that.
The book also has elements of mystery and thriller, and they are worked well into the story. We have several intriguing events going on at the same time: first, there is the attempt at trying to find information about the person who passed the gift to Em (this is far from resolved is this book, but we learn some things); there is the search for a woman who has gone missing that takes up centre stage, especially towards the end of the book, and brings in action scenes and an interesting twist (that I had suspected all along, but it’s a twist nonetheless); and there is also a mystery involving Em and her house, which is seemingly resolved in the novel but has left me wondering. As pertains to this genre of books, there are red herrings, plenty of clues thrown in, information and misinformation, although the book has so many other things going on that I am not sure it will work for people who are looking for a straightforward mystery or thriller. The pace of the book ebbs and flows, with some pretty contemplative moments and some pretty fast ones (when the action kicks in), and there are lengthy and beautiful descriptions of locations, and especially of experiences, that I particularly enjoyed, turning this book into something more than a page-turning by-the-numbers thriller.
There is a paranormal element in the book, but this is not high-fantasy where you need to read pages and pages to gain an understanding of a new world order. This is the world we all know (especially Canadians), and although the lyrical way in which some of the descriptions are written and some of the remote locations give it a timeless quality, the story takes place in contemporary times. We are familiar with the world and the social order portrayed in the book, and we get to know about groups of individuals who are seemingly “normal” but share something “extra”, the “gift” of the title, and it seems this legacy can have as many variants as individuals possess it. Although there are fantasy and paranormal aspects to the novel, I felt they were particularly well integrated into the plot and did not require an extreme grade of suspension of disbelief, and I don’t think you need to be an enthusiast of fantasy or paranormal books to enjoy this series.
This is a book I’d recommend to people who enjoy credible characters, a touch of the paranormal, mysteries that go beyond who-done-it, and who don’t mind a story that builds up slowly and takes readers on flights of fancy through magical experiences and wonderful locations. Oh, and who don’t mind a touch of sex. I’ve become very fond of Em and many of the other characters in the book (Avery is a favourite as well), and I hope to learn how her gift develops further in the future.