I loved that this story felt exactly like you were in the head of the main character. For the first half or so, that meant being in the head of a fourteen-year-old girl as she interacted with other teenage girls, and all of the friendships, backstabbing, jealousies, rivalries, etc. felt completely real…from what I remember of adolescence. To me, the strongest element of this book is the characterization of these girls. They feel very, very real and believable, despite their supernatural/magical quirks.
There’s a pleasant, creative depth going on here too. What exactly is the Sphere of Visions? The story jumps right in as if we know, and from Leya’s excitement and through her eager eyes (*wink*) we piece together the necessary answers. The author seems to have thought through a wide world with many peoples, cultures, and lands, but we only see what we need to know about it, which again works well as we see from a fourteen-year-old girl’s somewhat self-involved perspective. The very interesting uniqueness of this story is this: a “gifted” person’s eye color determines what their gifts are. Blue can mean water. Brown wood. Green for growth. Red for fire…or maybe tomatoes? It’s a very clever supernatural/magical setup and simple enough to follow without being too obviously predictable.
I enjoyed the internal struggles Leya experienced as she left her family, learned in this school, and beyond. The tension between using her gifts to serve vs. using her gifts to suit her own desires was present all the way through the book, from adolescence to adulthood. I always find it refreshing when a main character isn’t perfect but can grow and learn instead. Leya IS a little frustrating from time to time, however, and I had moments where I kind of wanted to slap her. Beyond Leya, the other characters also fail and succeed in doing the right thing, and the varying shades between the “good guys” and “bad guys” made the labels complicated so that you really tried to understand where each character was coming from.
I won’t give too much of the plot away, but Leya, Safia, Caari, Zendra, etc. spend the first portion of the book learning from the Mistresses, who have mastered their gifts and live kind of like nuns at a convent school. Then, the story jumps a few years into Leya’s life, then a few more years. I thought this worked pretty well, but the middle portion seemed REALLY fast to me. Considering this is when some seriously troubling, emotional things happen, I felt like more time could have been spent here. But, when everything falls into place for the last portion, I was ready and kind of sensed what was coming, so it was good setup. The end felt natural, well done, and clearly sets the stage for more books to come.
All in all, the book is very well-written with imaginative descriptions. A great story for maturing young readers, this book certainly has a good message about controlling yourself for the benefit of others. The story, the characters, and the interesting supernatural/magical elements are unique enough that I’m curious to see where the story goes next.
See it on Amazon!