by Sarah Beth Durst
Review by Drew Bittner
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B00NWBQBAW
Date: 14 October 2014
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
In Chasing Power, Sarah Beth Durst introduces readers to Kayla, her mother Moonbeam, and her best friend Selena. Outwardly a rebellious teenager, Kayla spends her time stealing in order to supplement her mom's income from a New Age store that hides her true magical abilities. Mother and daughter are both in hiding from Kayla's father, who she knows to be a monstrous killer. Everything in their lives is about staying under the radar so he never finds them.
When a boy named Daniel enters the picture, though, things get complicated fast. Kayla is pushed to help Daniel find three magic stones--the object of his kidnapped mother's research--so that he can trade them for her safe return. He has a magical ability too, the power to teleport anywhere in the world that he has seen, even if only in a picture or on TV. Working together, they decipher clues that lead them first to a voodoo queen and then to a ruined temple, where the hunt begins in earnest.
Meanwhile, Selena does her best to help guide their search, but her carefree rich girl facade is under tremendous stress from trying to please demanding parents--especially when she cannot stand up for herself.
Kayla and Daniel soon discover that someone else is pursuing the stones. Narrowly surviving a close encounter in South America, Daniel shares a fateful secret with Kayla--a connection that they share--and shatters her trust in him. Unsure if she is able or willing to help him further, the consequences ratchet up when danger finds them.
In the course of this search, Kayla will discover truths about her family that will make her question everything, and test bonds of love and trust to their limits. She will have to find her courage and trust her powers as she never has before, because her enemies are playing for keeps.
Durst conjures up yet another delightful tale in this novel. A mother and daughter work out their issues with magic but also with the tentative and fragile bonds of loyalty and honesty between parent and child, even as that child grows apart and wants something more for herself than safety. Kayla is a richly drawn character, lawless and yet with plenty of integrity, while Daniel is slowly but steadily filled in as a young man whose arrogance and outward cool conceal a terrified boy. His own discoveries do quite a bit to push him toward maturity, as he struggles to resolve his feelings for Kayla with his duty to his mother.
The setting is nicely specific, as is the magic; unlike some urban fantasies, the magic in this book is well defined and there are no deus ex machina leaps. Queen Marguerite, grandchild of the infamous Marie Laveau, is the New Orleans voodoo queen who helps ground and elevate the magic simultaneously--she provides a nice counterweight to Moonbeam, who seems to be all about hiding her small magic under phony New Age flimflam. Likewise, Selena is a sensible young woman who cannot be open with her mother, balancing Kayla's strong bonds with Moonbeam--and yet, both girls find that complete honesty is beyond them.
The story takes twists and turns, with a scavenger hunt that roams across the world, until there's a final reckoning that will either set Kayla free or spell her death.
It's a fine, fast-paced, and enjoyable adventure with appealing young leads and a boundless world of magic and mystery still to be explored. Well done.