Obedience, respect, and love in the face of mortal danger are the themes that form the skeleton on which Heather Burch’s new book Halflings is built. The story follows Nikki Youngblood, a self-assured 17-year-old whose life is turned upside-down when a quartet of hell hounds appear. While fleeing for her life, three mysterious and attractive boys come to her rescue and Nikki soon finds that her life will never be the same.
What Nikki doesn’t know is that the three boys are the offspring of fallen angels and human women. They were sent to the Earth to protect her, but as Mace and Raven grow closer to their charge, the focus of the mission begins to waver. Relationships between Halflings and humans are strictly forbidden, and Mace struggles to honor the rules he has kept until now. Raven, however, has no problem breaking such rules — though Nikki is the first girl who has made him want to turn away from the darkness that tempts him. But Nikki doesn’t want to choose between the two, especially since choosing either would result in the loss of their eternal reward. And yet, in the midst of this triangle, Nikki and her three guardians find themselves pitted against more than just hell hounds. However, the source of the true threat facing them remains elusive.
Halflings is one of a growing number of sci-fi and fantasy books being introduced by publishers that have traditionally focused on Christian faith-based books. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction, but this one caught my eye and the publisher agreed to send me a copy to review. Publisher Zondervan’s publicity group is putting Halflings in the same camp as Stephanie Meyer and Lauren Kate. I can’t testify as to whether that is a fair comparison or not because (gasp!) I haven’t read either of these popular authors. So many books, so little time.
What I do know is that Halflings was a fun read. I love Nikki, the gutsy, motorcycle-riding, martial arts expert. I love her self-sufficiency and desire to tackle any problem head-on, even if it has fur and teeth.
As for the Halflings themselves, I can picture the three attractive young men as they turn the heads of all the girls, and my heart breaks for Raven with his bad-boy attitude that actually hides a heart full of pain. I mourn with Mace as he struggles to work past a love for Nikki that, if he gives in, will earn him a place in hell. The third boy, Vine, is a great supporting character who is dependable, strong and full of innocent, boyish charm.
Will, the boys’ guardian, has heartache of his own to deal with, penance to make for past sins. And yet, his goodness and devotion to God is as diametrically opposed as one can get to the putrid, terrifying hell hounds that would love nothing better than to sink their fangs into Nikki’s flesh. “Why?” you ask. If I told you, that would ruin the fun. You’ll have to read and see for yourself. (Hint: the author does a pretty good job of stretching this out, teasing the reader and throwing out just enough tidbits to keep one guessing. I love it when the author treats us as intelligent readers.)
On the “con” side, romance is not my favorite genre to read by far so I was a bit worried about that angle, wondering if it would be strong enough to make me want to put the book down. But I found it well-done — not too strong and yet full of tension and uncertainty. To me, the book is more suspense than romance and for me, that’s a good thing. The paranormal twist combined with the suspense provided a nice balance for me. And yet, if you are a YA romance reader, I think Halflings will fit the bill just fine.
Overall, I give Halflings 4 stars out of 5. The book hits shelves in January 2012 and I look forward to the next books in the series. Book 2 (Guardian) and book 3 (Risen) are both scheduled to be released later in 2012.
It just so happens that 5 copies of Halflings are being given away on Goodreads. If you’re interested, the deadline to enter the contest is December 30, 2011. Here’s the link:
I’m hoping to interview Heather and post the results of that sometime in the near future. I’ll keep you posted on that one. Meanwhile, you can find her on the web at:
NOTE ADDED 12-20-11: I see that a related short story with graphic novel-type illustrations is now available from the Amazon Kindle store here — download is free.
Do you read paranormal YA fiction? What is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you so let me know, ok?