These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org
PW Reviews 2014 April #3
Whenever high school student Nolan Santiago closes his eyes, he sees through the eyes of Amara, a girl in another world. Amara, a mute slave with healing powers, has been bound to princess-in-exile Cilla since childhood, forced to absorb the curse that could kill Cilla if she spills just one drop of blood. Nolan suffers every bit of Amara’s pain until he accidentally overdoses on his medication and discovers he can escape Amara’s body. But when Nolan leaves, so do Amara’s healing abilities. Debut novelist Duyvis smoothly integrates elements of diversity and disability into her cast without letting them stand in for deeper characterizations. Nolan, whose father is Mexican, is an amputee and suffers seizurelike blackouts when he’s pulled into Amara’s world. Equal respect and weight are given to both of Amara’s romantic relationships—she loves her (male) fellow servant, Maart, and has feelings for Cilla, despite the power imbalance between them. Numerous plot twists drive the story along, and it’s grounded in worldbuilding that creates a believable, authentic setting. Duyvis makes ingenious use of a fascinating premise. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (June)
Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal
SLJ Reviews 2014 June
Gr 9 Up—High school can be a confusing and difficult time for any teen, but it has been exceptionally hard for Nolan. While his family and his doctors insist that he has been experiencing chronic seizures, comas, and incredibly detailed hallucinations, the truth is that every time he closes his eyes, his consciousness is transported into the mind of Amara, a servant girl living in the Dunelands, a realm where mages and magic are commonplace. It has been several years since he started seeing through Amara’s eyes, but in all of that time, he has only been a silent watcher, unable to even let Amara know he is there. Even worse, Nolan has endured great pain in both Amara’s world and his own, as Amara had been chosen by a mage to protect a crown princess in hiding after her family was usurped in a violent revolution. Everything suddenly changes when Nolan begins to gain control over Amara’s movements, forcing the two to work together in order to discover the truth behind the revolution that led to the princess’s exile. While Duyvis’s debut is an exciting take on the fantasy genre, as it alternates between our world and that of the Dunelands, the true strength of the novel is in its positive portrayal of LGBT issues. This becomes most important in establishing the character of Nolan, an adolescent who has experienced most of his adolescence from the perspective of a girl, and in the nuanced portrayal of Amara’s relationships.—Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY
(c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Reviews 2014 May #2
Nolan lives two lives. On earth he struggles with what everyone thinks is epilepsy, but when he closes his eyes, he is pulled into the mind of Amara, a mute servant girl in another world, charged with protecting a princess in hiding. When Nolan discovers how to control Amara, she is furious, but working together might lead to freedom for both of them. Debut author Duyvis has written a nice twist on the classic body-snatchers theme and keeps the pace moving smoothly, even when jumping between Nolan’s and Amara’s perspectives. Her racially diverse characters struggle with both disabilities and sexual identity, but she keeps her focus solidly on the story and character development, so that diversity integrates naturally into both Nolan’s and Amara’s experiences. Some elements of the magic that brings them together are unexplained, and the open ending might frustrate readers who want everything tied up in a neat bow. But readers who want to be left thinking after a story is done will appreciate this stand-alone title.
Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
The Horn Book
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Fall
Whenever seventeen-year-old Nolan closes his eyes, he’s transported into the body of Amara, a mute slave girl on an alien world who acts as decoy against would-be assassins of a princess. After years of being a helpless witness, Nolan suddenly becomes a player in the action. Duyvis keeps tensions high in both Nolan’s Arizona and Amara’s Dunelands. A humdinger of an adventure.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2014 #3
Seventeen-year-old Nolan Santiago appears to suffer from a rare form of untreatable epilepsy, but the truth is much stranger. Whenever Nolan closes his eyes, he is transported into the body and mind of Amara, a mute slave girl in the Dunelands on an alien world and one of four fugitives fleeing hired assassins. Amara’s job is to protect Princess Cilla from her curse: a single spilled drop of Cilla’s blood awakens a spell that rouses vengeful stones, plants, and the earth itself to extinguish her life, so at the first sign of injury, Amara smears Cilla’s blood on herself and becomes a decoy, protected by her healing magic from the curse’s deadly effects. But after years of being a helpless witness to Amara’s sacrifice, Nolan begins taking a new medicine that gives him the ability to control Amara’s body, and suddenly he becomes a player in the fugitives’ actions. Talented debut author Duyvis keeps tensions high in both Nolan’s Arizona and Amara’s Dunelands, pitting the demands of Nolan’s school and family against his need to stay involved in Amara’s struggle. For Amara, whose sexual attraction to Cilla is complicated by the power differential between them, Nolan’s ability to take over her body adds another layer of impotence to her life as a slave. But when forces in Amara’s world start to enter Nolan’s world…reader, watch out! Duyvis creates a humdinger of an adventure that contains the agony of loyalty, the allure of magic, and, most gratifyingly, the element of surprise. anita l. burka
Copyright 2014 Horn Book Magazine.
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
VOYA Reviews 2014 June
This dual-setting novel takes places in both modern-day and fantasy world settings and follows two protagonists: Nolan, a teen who suffers from debilitating seizures whenever he closes his eyes, and Amara, a servant who is often tortured and punished but heals quickly. Nolan writes “stories” in his journals based on Amara’s life of serving an exiled princess on the run. He realizes that he can physically take over Amara’s mind and body when he is in her world. His journal reads like someone’s personal therapy journal, and there are not enough details to understand the culture and place Nolan visits Major questions are left unanswered. Who are these travelers really, and why/ how do they travel worlds? Why did they really want to stay in Amara’s world? The story seems unfinished rather than open-ended or left to readers’ imaginations. Character development is lacking, and readers will have difficulty connecting with either protagonist. Due to its lack of clear purpose and thematic clarity, as well as lack of fantasy world-building, the novel fails to engage its intended audiences. In addition, it fails to engage as an interesting allegory about mental illness or teen angst. Choppy back-and-forth pacing and story lines feel disjointed. Serious fans of fantasy crossovers may read this book with pushing, but they will need to invest time and may fail to care about the characters and understand the point of the characters’ journeys. Casual fans may give up before reaching the end.—Karen Sykeny 2Q 3P J S
Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.