Becca is a 17-year-old who has spent most of her life taking care of her little brother, Ryland. This is more than a simple sister’s oversight – Ryland has ‘issues,’ not the least of which are the voices he constantly hears in his head.
Their father abandoned them when Ryland was very young and their mother has done her best, but she has never understood Ryland the way that Becca does. And despite looking out for Ryland, Becca manages to graduate high school two years early.
When representatives from a distant school show up to take Ryland away, Becca has a fit. It takes the very calm, honest demeanor of one of the men, explaining that Ryland has special abilities that he doesn’t even know about, along with their promise to let Becca come along until Ryland gets settled
The school is much more than Becca imagined and Ryland immediately finds that he fits in – he’s not an outcast, and is ready for Becca to leave, which hurts her feelings a bit. However, Becca has met a handsome, kind young man, Alex, and the two of them often look for the chance to spend some time alone together.
Becca learns that everyone at the school are “Holders”:
a race of people living in Ireland called Cumhacht Coinnigh or Power Holders. They were like regular humans in every way except that they each had what they called a beannú an bandia, a ‘blessing of the Goddess’. This ‘blessing’ was actually a special power or ability.
Holders are almost always male, though Becca does befriend one other girl about her age, who has limited Holder powers.
It is believed that Ryland has exceptional powers, even compared to the others at the school. It turns out that the headmaster of the school is Becca and Ryland’s father who abandoned them and it gets Becca angry that he doesn’t even seem to know that his new students are his own children.
Surprises and changes are in store, for Ryland, Becca, Alex, and those working at the school.
I really enjoyed this book. Mostly because of author Julianna Scott’s writing style. This was a really easy book to get into, the characters are clear (though perhaps a bit stereotypical), and the story unfolds nicely throughout the book.
This is a classic YA book without all the angst. Our heroine has all the hallmarks of a fantasy YA story protagonist, including a romance that is forbidden. (There’s more romance here than I would typically care for, but it’s handled well and it’s more ‘longing’ than romance for most of the book.
There are a couple of twists within the story that shouldn’t have surprised me, but did – mostly because I was engrossed in the storytelling, but also because Scott does such a fine job of revealing the story bit by bit. I definitely enjoy being surprised in this way – something I should have seen coming.
While my copy of this was an ARC, this is an older title – a backlist book now, but you should seek it out if you like YA fantasy in the vein of Hunger Games or Maze Runner.
Looking for a good book? The Holder, by Julianna Scott, is a wonderful YA fantasy. But be warned … it’s the first book in a series so you may not feel the story is complete.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
author: Julianna Scott
series: The Holders #1
publisher: Strange Chemistry
paperback, 320 pages