Review: Sleight: Book One of the AVRA-K by Jennifer Sommersby

15 Apr

Sleight

“Her mom is dead.
Ghosts follow her around.
Her best friend is an elephant.
And she’s about to meet the biggest game changer of all: a boy. With a secret.

When circus-dwelling Gemma Flannery learns she will be attending public school for the first time in her seventeen years, little does she know that fitting in with her 12th-grade classmates will be the least of her concerns. A pro at hiding her knack for seeing the dead (“shades”), Gemma is grieving the recent suicide of her mentally ill mother, a process eased by the introduction of her first real love interest, the charming and painfully handsome Henry Dmitri, who is harboring his own collection of dangerous secrets. Together, they will be presented with a frightening challenge: to assume their roles as heirs to a 3000-year-old magical text, the AVRAKEDAVRA, a book the über-rich, sleight-of-being master Lucian Dmitri would do anything to get his hands on. As each terrifying layer in her new reality melts away, Gemma unearths truths that her quiet, nomadic life with the Cinzio Traveling Players is not at all what she’d always cherished. Gemma and Henry must rely on each other to stop Lucian’s diabolical plotting that will bring the world to its tired, scab-riddled knees, and are sent on the flight of their young lives, to save themselves, their families, and the world from the darkest kind of destruction.
Let the chase begin” –Via Amazon

Sleight is the first self-published book I’ve ever read. It would have completely escaped my attention, had I not seen two fellow book bloggers discussing it’s awesome-ness on Twitter late one night. After reading a few reviews on Goodreads, I immediately downloaded it from Amazon to see for myself.

The story itself is one of the more original plots of any YA novel I’ve read lately. Gemma is part of an extended circus family, but just happens to have a “crazy” mother, and the ability to see shades. She’s denied her ability her whole life, but finally starts to accept it once her already weird life gets even weirder after the circus camps out in a small Washington town. High school is twice as complicated as usual when Gemma has to deal with ghostly shades seeking her attention, on top of the normal drama of teen life.

Everything changes once Gemma meets Henri Dimitri, the son of Lucian, the man who has sponsored the circus. Their friendship develops naturally, before blossoming into something more. Henri at times seems like a total goody-two-shoes (his flaws appear late in the story), but their story is romantic, and—-my favorite kind of YA novel relationship—-realistic. Their interactions via email and chat conversations were adorable. Both characters blossom and come into their own as they learn more about each other, their past, their true identities, and their joint destinies.

I LOVED the circus setting of the story. I’ve always enjoyed the magical feeling of circuses and carnivals, and have a special place in my heart for stories set in such locations since I have family members who grew up working there.
Sleight features an incredibly strong sense of place, leaving you feeling like you are right there at the show with Gemma’s extended circus family.

Her circus family, and their entire cast of secondary characters were well-developed and entertaining. You truly feel for Gemma as she’s betrayed by those close to her, and faces losses she never imagined she’d be able to survive. She grows quite a bit as a character, from denying her “abilities” to fully embracing them, and accepting who she truly is.

What I didn’t like: The story, while amazingly high quality and well written, with a great plot, could use one last round with an editor. The beginning seemed to be full of over-long sentences with lots of run ons, that distracted me enough just to take me out of the story. That ended after a few chapters, but later scenes seemed to drag at times, as if they were allowed to continue just a bit too long. The climax of the story just *happens* making me wonder if the book should have ended one chapter earlier, or one chapter later.

I thought Lucian, while slightly scary, and very powerful in the Gemma and Henri’s immediate world, wasn’t “all powerful” enough to be the world-changing villain he was portrayed to be. He was an expert manipulator, murderer, and control freak, but I was confused as to why the consequences of his actions were supposed to have any impact on humanity as a whole. While surely dangerous, Lucian is no Lord Voldemort, or Hitler—-someone his “world philosophies” supposedly influenced (I promise that reference will make sense once you read the book).

The “magic” in the book wasn’t explained as well as I would have liked. I never really saw anyone do anything I’d actually consider that magical. Whether that be in the Harry Potter, or David Copperfield sense. “Weird” things just happened, paranormal activity (ghosts, mind reading, psychic ability) abounds and is portrayed as being almost commonplace amongst the cast of characters, but most of Lucian’s evil doing could be attributed to his massive wealth controlling people, and his murderous ways striking fear into their hearts.

I’m hoping in the next book, thankfully out this fall, more of Lucian’s history and importance will be explained. I’d like more background on the AVRA-K book and how exactly it works as well. The story also ends abruptly after an extended chase, so I’m anxious to see what happens next. Overall, I feel like Sleight is a book I loved, but not enough to see through its (few) imperfections. The series has a LOT of potential, so I’d still recommend it for a very unique reading experience, enchanting world building, and interesting characters.

3.5 out of 5 Stars
Sleight is available now, on Amazon for $2.99.

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