I have to start by saying this a really good book. Sure, there is a believable world created here as a backdrop. But what I loved was that it was really well-written in a strong female voice. Katelyn Kestrel is the kind of hero a girl can believe in. She lives in a mountain valley called Haven–and I mean a valley completely surrounded by towering mountains through which there is no way out. Supposedly. No one has been outside of Haven in over 700 years. It’s sort of a steam punk meets epic fantasy kind of place. Mechanical carriages to help the horses out. Running water. Weather men. In a land where things are simple. I like true fantasy, where the setting is more medieval, but I have found that I also enjoy the modernized take on the old standby. Ms. Ivanovich pulls it off with vigor.
Katelyn is a curious girl, and she wonders what lies outside those mountains. So one night, after a particularly humiliating experience among her school peers, she decides to try to find her way out. And some strange pull inside her leads her directly to the only path out of the mountains. She finds her way Outside. What awaits her there makes high school look like a day at the park. A war is waging Outside and she gets caught up in the middle of it. Her allies Outside are Dylan and Rune, two very different young men who affect her very differently. Dylan is charming and flirtatious while Rune is distant to the point of cruelty. What’s cool here is that Katelyn isn’t a gullible girl. She sees through to who the true good guy is, even from the beginning. Though she grows to trust Dylan, it takes him a while to get to her. She trusts Rune from the start. I liked that I wasn’t supposed to be believing that this girl just trusted and threw herself at everybody. Believing that anyone could be so… stupid. There are books like that out there. You know it’s true.
But that’s not the main story. Oh no, the main story is that Katelyn has to find her way back to Haven without leading all the crazies from Outside to her home. Because the Outside world has been searching for Haven for centuries, and it has sinister plans for its inhabitants. And Katelyn is a prisoner, one way or another, from the moment she reaches Outside. Super sinister bad guys, untrustworthy good guys, new friends, and bitter disappointments pepper Katelyn’s action-packed adventure, but she stays true to herself and her motives and fights back even when there seems to be no fight left in her.
I can’t say much more without giving too much away, so I’ll leave it at this–this book is kind of epic. I can’t think of a single protagonist who made a foolish mistake that made me want to put the book down (that happens, too. You know it does). They all made right choices. Human choices. Believable choices. It rocked. And the last paragraph… Let’s just say it punched me in the heart. Pick up this wonderful book for
yourself your teens and tweens if your looking for something to truly engage them. Read it with your littles if they love adventure and you want to teach a lesson about loyalty and courage.