This imaginative young adult thriller pits a shy 15-year-old girl against a vicious group of flesh-eating, cross-bred creatures known as Mal Rous. Successfully blending science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, and coming-of-age genres, the novel is intended as volume one in a three-part series.
Bullied relentlessly by her older sister, Jaden Lisette dreads spending time with her family restoring a dilapidated Louisiana mansion they inherited from her late father’s side of the family. Crushing on local boy Briz Nolan, however, offers a pleasant diversion. That is, until her scheming sister says she and Briz have already been intimate.
In addition to this disturbing news, Jaden also deals with guilt, shame, and fear associated with the Mal Rous, whom she inadvertently releases from hibernation. These gremlin-like creatures, created by her crazed grandfather, have a mixture of DNA from humans and predatory plants, insects, and rodents. After being attacked and injected with their blood, Jaden takes on their characteristics, especially sexual aggression.
Years of oppression by her sister help Jaden find courage to fight the Mal Rous. Aided by Briz, an old man in a retirement home, a mentally challenged victim of the Mal Rous, and albino triplets, Jaden attempts to save the town from the beasties.
Figurative language paints vivid pictures in this book, yet sometimes becomes repetitious. Jaden’s frightening circumstances are described in ongoing similes and metaphors including, “a B-rated horror flick,” “a Stephen King novel,” “a bad teenage fright flick,” and a “psycho-thriller.”
Likewise, the Dedication, Acknowledgments, Author’s Note, and About the Author mention the story was inspired by her partner, artist Steven Lee Smeltzer, whose otherworldly sculptures were the basis for the Mal Rous characters. One mention of these sculptures (rather than four) would have been sufficient.
Despite these very minor missteps, the story’s original characters, well-constructed plot, moving portrayal of teenaged angst and lust, and effective blending of genres should satisfy young adult readers looking for a fresh new fantasy series.
Also available as an ebook.