A disclaimer! Liz de Jager is a friend of mine, as she is of many in the book blogging world, but Liz would expect nothing other than an honest and unbiased review and so that is what she will get!
Kit Blackhart is a young women who has much more on her plate than simply dealing with the normal process of leaving school and setting out into the adult world. With her immediate family now gone, Kit has been taken in by her Blackhart cousins, a warm, fun and kind bunch who live in Blackhart Manor and spend their days ridding the world of the beasts who have dared to venture out from the Otherwhere. Kit grew up knowing she was different, that magic flowed through her veins, and she immediately fitted into this new life (while having to adapt to the triplicate paperwork that accompanies the despatch of monsters).
As Banished begins, we watch Kit embark on her first solo challenge – the entrapment and disposal of a soul-sucking banshee. So great is her success that Kit is too drained to join her cousins for their journey to Scotland to meet up with a werewolf clan. But her disappointment is a small price to pay for being able to save Thorn, a young fae prince, from the vicious attack of a particularly unpleasant subgroup of goblin – the redcaps. It’s soon clear that something has happened in the Otherwhere which threatens not only itself but also our world, the Frontier, and Kit and Thorn are going to need all the help they can get to stop the forces of evil.
From the very first chapter, Banished grabs hold of the reader. Not just for the action – which is instant and thrilling and really rather horrifying – but also for the character of Kit. She might be the heir to a great magical tradition but she’s not going to let that stop her enjoying her life, getting to know her young cousins, training, driving her car, perhaps even kissing a boy, maybe, and going out and doing what she does best – smashing monsters into the ground. On the course of this journey, there are times when Kit is very afraid (dragons, trolls and haunted mirrors are not to be taken lightly), spreading that fear to us, but she is also impetuous, brave and obstinate. She has a boy to impress, too – Thorn. But Thorn’s troubles are on a scale all of their own.
Banished is the first in a trilogy and so it leaves some hints and clues as to where the story may go from here but it is also to a satisfying degree a self-contained novel. It most certainly has a dramatic conclusion.
There are minor flaws – Thorn is less easy to identify with than Kit and not as three dimensional but as Thorn is from a different kind of place entirely it didn’t matter too much. There were also little repetitions. But Banished is a first novel and Liz is to be applauded not only for her storytelling but also for the quality of the writing, which can switch from humour to terror in an instant. I especially liked the chapter introductory passages which give us information about the Blackhart family or the different types of beast that a Blackhart might be expected to encounter. I also learned something – the fae and coffee do not mix.
Banished is a great debut YA novel, pumped full of action from the first pages and packed with characters you want to know better, baddies you just have to hate, and a plethora of supernatural beasties, many of whom prowl in the dark, just out of sight. Kit is a wonderful heroine. YA fiction has a new voice to enjoy.
Incidentally, what a great cover!
Also reviewed at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm