Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Source: Bought at Borders
Cover: I picked up this book for its cover. I love the strong image of a girl holding her sword proudly and how they tried to cloth her in something that has an older feeling to it while still being modern. The mix of silver and white against the swirling black is also really attractive and I really like the title in that bold blood red.
First Sentence: "Killing him should be easy; he's only six."
The mini-review: This was a fast-paced adventure with a good mix of character and plot but there were several aspects I found lacking. It's a good read but it's not likely to become one of my favorites any time soon.
As the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar, Bilqis SanGreal grew up knowing she wasn't normal. Instead of hanging out at the mall or going on dates, she spends her time training as a warrior in her order's ancient battle against the Unholy.
Billi's cloistered life is blasted apart when her childhood friend, Kay, returns from Jerusalem, gorgeous and with a dangerous chip on his shoulder. He's ready to slide back into Billi's life, but she's met someone new: amber-eyed Mike, who seems to understand her like no one else and effortlessly stakes a claim on her heart.
But the Templars are called to battle before Billi can enjoy the thrilling new twist to her life. One of the order's ancient enemies has resurfaced, searching for a treasure the Templars have guarded for almost a thousand years-- King Solomon's cursed mirror, a source of unimaginable power. To save the lives of millions, Billi will have to put her heart aside and make a sacrifice greater than she could have imagined.
From the first page, this novel kicks off with a bang. The plot begins and races towards a final climax that gives all it was promising. Sprinkled in during some of the downtimes is Billi's (often confused) thoughts about what she is trained to do and how her life could have been different if her family wasn't a part of the Templars.
Chadda's writing is confident and smooth, always giving the right amount of description without taking away from the pacing of the novel. The sentences are beautiful and often times, so completely different, you really feel like you're in the head of someone who sees the world in a completely different light. I offer a passage that will stick with me (during those long hours of trying to find the perfect word to describe a scene...):
"Elysium Heights," she said. She followed the spine of the building upward. It looked like the skeleton of some ancient giant, reaching out of his grave and grasping for Heaven. The sky hung low and brooding over it, like an angry thought.- Pg. 132Another thing that was really great about this novel was the mythology of the Templars laced in with the reality of her life and the mixture of medieval tradition with angels and demons. The Templars were not the radical religious group that history has made them out to be, but rather a group of men (with the exception of one, of course) who fight a war against the Unholy (not necessarily meaning Hell).
There were a lot of things to like about this book but there were also a lot of things that fell a little flat. Several of these things are purely my taste and I can completely understand why some people wouldn't mind.
My first big thing about this book was that it was in third person. As a writer, I prefer first person and also as a reader, I prefer first. I've got a really good reason for this though, I promise. My reasoning is that I find it really hard to connect to a character if I'm not in their head. While Chadda tried really hard to let me know how Billi felt or what she thought about something, it still felt like there was this invisible fence set up between me as the reader and her as a character. Because of this, her character, in general, felt lacking to me.
My next huge thing was an expectation. I saw the cover of this novel and read the blurb and was expecting a kick ass female lead who could really hold her own. Billi fell flat for me. She could kick and punch and fight with multiple weapons but she spent so much time not wanting to be a part of the Knights Templar that it was really all a waste on her. By the time she came around to wanting to kick some butt, most of the other male characters had saved her (twice or three times) and there were only 30 pages left in the book. I wanted her to be bad and I wanted it quickly.
The last thing that would have made it more enjoyable for me is merely something I thought of that would have enhanced Billi's final decision to finally start kicking some butt.
The main plot line is stopping Mike (the archangel, Micheal) from unleashing the Tenth Plague and killing all firstborns. On Pg. 229 (and on other pages leading up to and after this page by different characters), Billi has this sort of epiphany where she realizes that if she doesn't stop Mike then no one else will and all the firstborns will die. The thing is, she is a firstborn and so that makes her epiphany sort of selfish. I would have liked her to be a second child (maybe the first died in childbirth) so that her life was not included in this equation. She'd still have to face the fact that by fighting Mike, she'd probably die, but not because of the plague. For me, it would have made her decision to finally accept herself as a true knight feel a little more noble and a little less like a toddler kicking and screaming the whole way through.
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All that being said, this book is still worth a read through. Chadda has a beautiful writing style, full of surprising details, a great knack for plot and pacing and is daring enough to sacrifice for a better ending. I don't think you'll be disappointed with the read, especially if you don't hold the POV prejudices I do!