Aiden Ortiz is a gateway who allows the souls of the dead to pass through him on their journey to finding peace in the afterlife. His job is inconvenient enough and it becomes even more so when the Dark Priest returns and threatens to use Aiden’s power to bring back souls that are better left dead. Throw in a long-lost lover who mysteriously resurfaces without an explanation (or a home) and this quickly becomes a recipe for a young adult masterpiece.
I was drawn to this book for multiple reasons. Primarily, I was really excited for the concept. The horror geek in me loves this idea: souls having to cross over into the afterlife by physically walking through a person. And better yet, that person was a young adult. Unless you’ve been asleep for the past couple years, it’s evident that some of the most popular books have been in the young adult genre. Secondly, the hype around this book is massive. Heather Marie, a fellow Curiosity Quills author, is an all-out rock star with TV and radio spots as well as features in the Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan and a slew of good reviews to back her up. Oh, and that book cover? Let’s just say I went into this one with high expectations.
Well, I was not disappointed. Marie does a great job of developing Aiden as a character and really allows the reader to get into his head. I enjoyed the relationship between Aiden and Koren, the long-lost lover. Their backstories were so intertwined and riddled with intricacies that it made for well thought out characterization, something that I feel the YA genre lacks at times. Also, the story almost had a neo-gothic feel to it: the paranormal, eerie churches and passageways, lovers who cannot be. We need more books like this. I miss this!
Further, I liked the themes presented in the novel. With subject matter such as this, it’s hard not to overemphasize the battle between good and evil, but Marie handles it with grace and doesn’t jam it down the reader’s throat. I think it’s easy to inadvertently do so, especially with a primary setting being a church, but I liked how Marie left it up to the reader to make those good-vs.-evil distinctions. Also, I love how Marie touched on Latin and LGBTQ+ themes in this novel. These are things that are prevalent in our real world society, so I like when current books reflect that. I only hope she develops these further in her later work.
My only criticism of this novel is that my expectations were sky-high. Don’t get me wrong, Marie does a great job with this debut and I am excited for the second (and third, I think) installments, but I was a little less blown away with the writing. It was a little too young feeling for me and used a few too many cliches. The pacing was also a little slow and even though the action scenes were good, Aiden only ever seemed to black out in the peak of them — though, I can’t say I blame him.
That aside, I can honestly say I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading Heather Marie’s subsequent work — and following her sure-to-be rock star career!
All in all, I suggest buying a copy.