(Covenant Novel #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Spencer Hill Press
Available October 18th
Received from publisher for review
Alex has just seen her mother killed by daimons–pure-bloods (powerful descendants of demigods who can control the four elements) who have been seduced by the aether in the blood of their race and turned into murdering monsters–and now she's on the run from them all by herself. Luckily for her, pure-blood Aiden St. Delphi finds her in an abandoned warehouse, saves her from two daimons, and drags her back to the Covenant where she lived her whole life until her mother took her and ran away three years ago.
Given that she's a half-blood, Alex only has two choices for her future: become a Sentinel and fight daimons to protect the pures, or become a slave to those same people and work in their homes. Alex is certain of the choice she wants to make, however, her absence has put her behind her classmates and she must prove she's ready to rejoin them in the fall if she hopes to continue her training. Volunteering to help her get caught up, Aiden makes Alex's life both easier and infinitely harder.
Half-bloods and pure-bloods are absolutely forbidden from entering into relationships with each other, and Alex has been nursing a crush on Aiden since she was fourteen, making her training sessions a type of beautiful torture. Aiden doesn't treat her like most pures do halfs, showing her respect and kindness, but when the reason for Alex's mother's behavior those three years ago comes to light and new discoveries are made about the daimons, Alex realizes the rule keeping her from Aiden is the smallest of her problems.
Half-Blood picks us up and deftly tosses us straight into the middle of danger and death with our heroine, giving us little time to get our bearings before we're holding our breath and tensing and releasing our muscles as Alex fights for her life in the opening pages. The action-packed beginning guarantees our immediate involvement in Alex's story, and our connection to her only grows stronger as we begin to see the young woman behind the fighter as well as the mourning daughter behind the smart mouth and bravado. Ms. Armentrout does a positively brilliant job of revealing her world a piece at a time, ensuring we are never left wandering haplessly in the unknown but also making sure we are never so fully informed that we become complacent and lose the addicting tension created when our curiosity is continually piqued.
Alex is a girl whom it's easy to admire, surviving numerous tragedies and horrific encounters in the first few pages to show us just how strong she is physically and mentally, but she also allows us a peek behind that strength by giving us access to the emotions and vulnerabilities that take our bond to her from a pretty solid one to an unbreakable one. Though she often acts out and makes decisions that complicate the lives of those attempting to help her, she harbors no delusions about her recklessness, instead fully embracing it with the knowledge that any inaction on her part would cut just as deeply–if not deeper–than any wound inflicted in battle. She has a quick wit and sass in spades, and we can't help but appreciate that she's never hindered by blinders with regard to her behavior, and even though we know as well as she does that certain choices will lead her in a disastrous direction, we find ourselves urging her forward anyway, ready to stand beside her and face whatever comes our way.
Her relationship with Aiden is one of delightful apprehension, the forbidden nature of it making every look and every minuscule gesture more intense as we analyze their every interaction for a sign of mutual interest. The impossibility of their romance also allows the build up of their feelings to be beautifully but agonizingly slow, our entire bodies attuned to their every movement–wishing, hoping, and wondering how things will play out between the two of them. Though Seth is introduced to the mix a bit later in the book, in this first installment he is not a true threat to Alex's feelings for Aiden (though it certainly seems as though this will not always be the case), allowing the totality of our fixation to remain on Aiden alone to our utter delight. Seth is a young man we undoubtedly want to know more about, but for the moment we are content for him to not yet be the third point of a love triangle.
One small issue that keeps this story from being paranormal young adult perfection is a somewhat inescapable similarity to Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy with regard to a few core elements. There's the half-blood/pure-blood/daimon dynamic in Half-Blood which mimic's Vampire Academy's dhampir/moroi/strigoi relationship quite closely. Then both feature mouthy, headstrong heroines returning to school after an extended absence only to be forced into extra training sessions with an attractive but off-limits young man. Even with the readily apparent comparisons however, it becomes clear as we read further that we are dealing with two very different architects, writers who layer their brick and stone in unique patterns and create intricacies that result in vastly different finished pieces despite the nearly identical foundations.