When Leila moves to her new home, all she wants is a family, a place to belong. Instead she discovers the local ancient myths of the telesa spirit women are more than just scary stories. The more she finds out about her heritage, the more sinister her new home turns out to be. Embraced by a Covenant Sisterhood of earth's elemental guardians - what will Leila choose? Her fiery birthright as a telesa? Or will she choose the boy who offers her his heart? Daniel - stamped with the distinctive tattoo markings of a noble Pacific warrior and willing to risk everything for the chance to be with her. Can their love stand against the Covenant Keeper?I almost think the main character in the book was the setting—Samoa itself. The author writes about it so vividly and deftly, without getting bogged down in endless description. It’s clear that she knows what she’s writing about, and she did an outstanding job at writing about Samoa in a way that helps people not from there understand the culture and the unique things about it. And she did it in a way that felt neither condescending or like too much time was spent explaining. It’s clear the author loves the country, and that love was contagious.
The story itself was interesting and unique. Because it takes place in Samoa and uses that country’s mythology, the whole idea felt fresh and new. Everything was fascinating to me because I’d never read anything very much like it before. I loved the idea of the Telesa and their deep connection to the earth. And speaking of the Telesa (they’re kinda like femme fatale witches, only very connected to nature), I enjoyed how layered their characters were, especially the head Telesa. They were the antagonists of the story, yet it was so easy to understand their motivations and see that while their methods may have been wrong, the intent behind them stemmed from a love of their country, and that made it hard for me to hate them.
Leila, the main character, was a little hard for me to like at first. She’s initially very defensive and closed off and tends to blow up at people with little provocation. But since that all plays into Leila’s character development and into the development of her powers, once I got a third of the way in or so, she wasn’t bugging me anymore. Plus, I liked that she wasn't, well, white. I'll be the first to admit that I'm basically as white as they come, but I love it when YA characters have a little, you know, color to them.
My one niggling complaint about the book is the love triangle. Since it doesn’t really come into play until halfway through the book, I thought I’d get away without it having one. So I may have rolled my eyes a little when boy #2 came into the story. At least both boys are hot and genuinely nice guys. I legitimately wanted Leila to be with both. Although I have to say, I fell totally in lust with Daniel. Oh my gosh, that boy is fine. No wonder Leila is crazy attracted to him—he’s Samoan, hot (what is it about Polynesian boys that's so intrinsically attractive?), athletic, smart, responsible, kind . . . If Leila doesn’t end up with him, can I have him? Plus, I liked that although there was a love triangle, the author successfully steered away from any insta-love and made the relationships very believable.
Overall, this was a totally solid book. It was a little long, in my opinion, but looking back, I’m not really sure what parts the author could’ve cut out. So, yes, if you’re looking for a YA paranormal that departs from the run-of-the-mill, give this one a shot. I know I already mentioned how much I loved the setting and culture, but I'll say it again--I loved it. I really don't know why there isn't more of a market for Pacific Islander/Polynesian/non-American YA books if Telesa is at all a representative example.
Rating: 4 / 5
Received for review