From the BLURB:
When Lily's guardians decided to send her away to a fancy boarding school in Chicago, she was shocked. So was St. Sophia's. Lily's ultra-rich brat pack classmates think Lily should be the punchline to every joke and on top of that, she's hearing strange noises and seeing bizarre things in the shadows of the creepy building. The only thing keeping her sane is her roommate, Scout, who keeps disappearing late at night and won't tell Lily where she's been. But when a prank leaves Lily trapped in the catacombs beneath the school, Lily finds Scout running from a real monster. Scout's a member of a splinter group of rebel teens with unique magical talents, who've sworn to protect the city against demons, vampires and Reapers, magic users who've been corrupted by their power. And when Lily finds herself in the line of a firespell, Scout tells her the truth about her secret life, even though Lily has no powers of her own - at least, none that she's discovered yet...
Chloe Neill has already established a name for herself with the Urban Fantasy series ‘Chicagoland Vampires’. Neill continues her love of all things Chicago in her first YA series, ‘Dark Elite’. ‘Firespell’ is the first book in the series, and one hell of an introduction.
Lily Parker’s world has been turned upside down. Not only is she staring down the tunnel of her senior year, with SAT’s and college applications looming... but she’ll be slogging through her final two years in a Chicago boarding school while her parents traipse around Germany. Okay, maybe ‘traipse’ isn’t the right word since they’ll be on a teaching sabbatical, but still! It’s a disaster of epic proportions for Lily, who has to leave her Sagamore NYC home, and say goodbye to her friends and parents. She is losing everything she holds dear, and trading it all in for the elite St. Sophia’s boarding school in Chicago.
It is at St. Sophia’s that Lily meets Millicent ‘Scout’ Green, her strange new roomie and future BFF. Scout isn’t like the other pencil-skirt-wearing, straight-laced Sophia snobs – she has a nose ring, an appreciation for ‘Man vs. Wild’ and a penchant for sneaking out at night for ‘exercise’. Lily follows Scout on one of her late-night ‘exercises’ and discovers something lurking in St. Sophia’s basement. Lily also meets two of Scout’s friends; Montclare private school boys Michael Garcia and Jason Shepherd. This trio of rich-kids claim to be ‘cleaning up Chicago’... but Lily isn’t convinced. And to top off all the weirdness is headmistress Foley making some radical claims about her parents.
The more Lily digs to uncover Scout and St. Sophia’s secrets, the more she discovers they may lead to secrets that are closer to home...
This is an outstanding new addition to the ‘Urban Fantasy’ genre, and YA readership. ‘Firespell’ has heart-pumping action, mysterious monsters and two heroines’s to admire. This is Urban Fantasy du-jour and an absolute joy to read!
I loved the fact that Neill coupled outlandish supernatural monsters with Lily’s more relatable and devastating discovery that her parents have been keeping secrets from her. It really heightened the personal drama, and ensured there was plenty of mystery spiced with the action scenes.
I’d walked into St. Sophia’s thinking I was beginning day one of my two-year separation from people who meant more to me than anyone else in the world – two people who’d been honest with me, even if we hadn’t always gotten along. (I was a teenager, after all.) But now I had to wonder. I had to look back over my life and decide whether everything I knew, everything I believed to be true about my mother and father, was a lie.The reason ‘Firespell’ works so well is that Neill is writing teenagers as heroes. Adults are side-lined in this book, and the kids take centre stage and battle-glory. At its heart, the ‘Dark Elite’ series will be an exploration of Good vs. Evil – a universal battle set in downtown Chicago, being fought by spoiled little rich kids. Brilliant!
Neill's characters are quick and quippy, throwing around pop-culture references and wry witticisms like they’re in a Joss Whedon TV show. I loved them. Lily and Scout are on the fringe of popularity, they’re hounded by the popular ‘Brat pack’, but they relish the verbal sparring rather than weakened by it. They aren’t mainstream teenagers; they reference Pete Wentz and put-down Blair Waldorf and are utterly charming for their quirkiness. They are the type of characters you wish were real people, so you could call them up and have a good gossipy chat.
There’s also plenty of potential romance to get stuck into, as Michael and Jason present interesting ‘cute boy’ diversions for Scout and Lily. Neill doesn’t give too much up in this first book, but she lays the groundwork for a budding romance that acts as a nice balance with all the monsters and fast-paced action.
If there’s one thing Neill does well, it’s writing secondary characters. In ‘Firespell’ the mean-girl ‘brat pack’ are as interesting as the main characters, and surprisingly enough the ‘bad guys’ prove to be equally fascinating players. Not to give anything away, but I found myself as interested in the head-honcho villain’s back-story as I was in Lily’s – and I hope Neill cultivates those minor plots in future books.
I really liked this book, and look forward to more to come in the ‘Dark Elite’ series. I actually prefer the premise of ‘Dark Elite’ than Neill’s adult ‘Chicagoland Vampires’ series.
‘Firespell’ finishes off on a Grand-Canyon-sized cliff-hanger (dammit!). Book two, ‘Hexbound’, is set for January 2011 release.