Before you think that you know all there is to know about vampires or shape shifters, think again my friends. Rebecca Hamilton puts a crazy twist on these legends in her book The Forever Girl that will have you viewing them in a totally new way. I was lucky enough to see Ms. Hamilton offering free copies on twitter and grabbed one. (My early apologies for such a long review.)
A Cult. A Murder. A Curse.
Sophia’s family has skeletons, but they aren’t in their graves…
At twenty-two, practicing Wiccan Sophia Parsons is scratching out a living waiting tables in her Rocky Mountain hometown, living under religious prejudice, the shadow of her bi-polar mother, and an unsolved murder.
Sophia can imagine lots of ways to improve her life, but she’d settle for just getting rid of the buzzing noise in her head. When the spell she casts goes wrong, the static turns into voices. Her personal demons get company, and the newcomers are dangerous.
One of them is a man named Charles, a centuries-old shape-shifter who Sophia falls for despite her better judgment. He has connections that can help her unveil the mystery surrounding her ancestor’s hanging, but she gets more than she bargains for when she finally decides to trust him. Survival in his world, she learns, means not asking questions and staying out of the immortal council’s way. It’s a line she crossed long ago.
If Sophia wants to survive the council and save the people she loves, she must accept who she is, perform dark magic, and fight to the death for her freedom.
Let me quickly set up the supernatural world in The Forever Girl. The Universe is actually made up of several entities that need positive energy to survive, since humans are very flawed and there wasn’t enough positive energy to sustain them. To survive, the Universe created elementals representing the elements:
- Earth – Cruor, the source of the vampire legend, were created to protect the humans at night, but good intentions can often be corrupted.
- Water – Strigoi, or shapeshifters, were created to hunt down the corrupted Cruor.
- Air – Ankou were created to be the grim reapers of deceased immortals as well as fighting the evil Strigoi.
- Fire – Chibolds, other than being told they disguise themselves as small children, not much is known yet.
I really like the idea of vampires and shapeshifters having a purpose rather than showing up one day. There’s a reason for why they fight each other, why they behave the way the do, etc. Not that not having a purpose is a bad thing, it just makes things different and not so ‘been there done that’. The whole element idea is rather clever, one I haven’t ran across before. I’ve always been drawn to the magical side of things, so this was right up my alley. You still have the element of surprise as most don’t know or believe that these creatures exist. If a human does find out about their existence, as long as they keep their mouth shut they are safe, but if they aren’t careful and say too much, the Council hunts them down.
Onto the characters, shall we. Sophia is Wiccan, and very strong in her belief without being hypocritical or a zealot. She’s very patient with those against her, including her mother and Mrs. Franklin, a crazy religious nut who’s trying to threaten her off her property. Although you get to see her inner turmoil about how people treat her, outwardly she’s calm and goes with the flow. She waits for the right moment to put her foot down. But with her mother and most of the town against her beliefs, comes doubt and lack of trust for others. She’s very guarded with her friends because she knows that if they found out the whole truth about her, like the fact that she hears voices and static all the time, they may turn against her too. When she learns that the elementals are real and not a legend, she’s skeptical at first but when all the truth and history is given to her, she accepts it and moves on without too much fuss. All in all she’s a very strong and centered person, with issues that most people live with like lack of trust, making her very real and believable.
Then there’s Charles. Who at first seems too good to be true, mesmerizing Sophia on the dance floor with his teal blue eyes, but then things quickly turn sour when she discovers he’s nothing like she thought. He’s a half breed, part Cruor and part Strigoi, beings she thought were legends. He’s considerate, honest, honorable, tough, smart…all around a guy you’d want to be with; someone you can trust and who can definitely protect you. One of the things that stands out with Charles is that he’s got a big heart but that makes him a bad judge of character and ends up being friends with those who cannot be trusted. You want to shake your head at him for not seeing that people can cross him, especially when he works so hard to protect the secret of who he really is. These two are rather cute together once her fear/confussion over the supernatural world dies down. It wasn’t just these two though; I found all the characters well written, believable and likeable.
There wasn’t a second where I guessed what was going to happen – everything was new and totally exciting. The Wiccan aspect was well plotted out, with some history of the Salem Witch Trials mentioned. One thing I love is how Wiccan’s are portrayed more accurately in The Forever Girl than you typically get. Most books/authors twist this religion into something not even close to the truth. You see Sophia at her alter doing a spell (think of spells like praying but with props to help symbolize specific desires/wishes and to give visualization and concentration) to help get the buzzing under control. You don’t see her casting spells or curses and harming people. There’s no evilness, or devil worshiping or any of that nonsense. Everything follows the Wiccan Rule of Three (or Three -fold Law), which is pretty much the Golden Rule of not harming others and treating them as you would want to be treated because if you don’t karma will get you. There is however levitation and fire manipulation, but I can overlook this considering there are shapeshifters and elementals, which is completely fiction. Other than these two powers, whenever the Wiccan religion is mentioned, it’s realistic and not based on hearsay. Sophia being Wiccan has a huge part in the plot, I can’t reveal what, but I can say it has to do with the title. It was suspenseful, was mysterious, with romance and magic thrown in for good measure. One of the things I must also mention is that throughout the book, Ms. Hamilton gives you clues to the puzzle that is at the end. You think these moments were nothing but then she shows you they mean everything to the story. I LOVE when authors do this!
Even though the plot had all the components I want for a book, there were things I wasn’t too thrilled about. For instance a lot of time passes in the book so you don’t get to witness Sophia and Charles coming together. In the beginning, you go from them having a dinner ‘date’ and then the next chapter tells you they’ve been dating for 6 weeks. You go from them not really liking each other (she’s coming to terms with the knowledge that his kind isn’t a legend and he’s offended she doesn’t believe the truth) to being a couple. This fast forwarding, especially this part, made it hard for me to see them as a couple at first. I’m also not a biggest fan of characters that don’t like each other then fall in love, because it’s done a lot. But I still love them as a couple, I am just sad that you don’t see them build their relationship. Also because of this I didn’t get a clear picture of the characters. I liked them, I thought they were well written and given the right amount of flaws, but you don’t see them grow or change over time that much with the skipping forward.
There was also something that was never cleared up, unless I missed it in my rush to finish, my apologies if I did. Near the beginning Sophia is doing a ritual, she sees a man and then cloaked figures outside her window. She learns that the man was Charles and the cloaked figures were the Council, but no explanation of what they were doing on her street is given. This appeared to be a pivotal moment but it never came to anything. Again if I missed it, my apologies.
My verdict is The Forever Girl is an amazing book, with a fresh, new twist on an old tale. Nothing is predictable, not even the villains, and boy was I shocked how things played out. Ms. Hamilton’s books are now on my must read list, they should be on yours too!
The Forever Girl
Her Sweetest Downfall (July 2012)
Come, the Dark (2013)