BROTHERHOOD OF SHADES
By Dawn Finch
YA Fantasy (Middle school)
When Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the church in England and wreaked havoc throughout the country as monasteries and other religious communities were pillaged, a small group determined to remain true to traditions they deemed necessary. The foremost tradition was to have three souls to mourn another's passing.
Documents gathered by a monk who saw visions of turmoil to come were given to a boy who had survived the illness that claimed the rest of his family. He made his way to a nunnery where knowledge from across the realm was to be hidden as their world collapsed. Grievously wounded, he was still able to deliver the materials.
Several hundred years later, another young teen dies in a hospital after being found starving on the streets of London. The homeless lad had no one to mourn him. But unlike the others solaced by the Brotherhood of Shades, this boy saw the spirits moving amongst the living. Now the teen, named Adam Street for where he was found, may be the one to fulfill a longstanding Brotherhood prophecy.
This is the setup to Dawn Finch's debut YA novel, a paranormal fantasy that involves the boy wounded during the Dissolution, the boy from the modern streets and a witch whose spirit has survived in her family for generations.
Adam has a guide to help him adjust. Toby D'Scover is the Keeper of the Texts. He takes care of the ancient documents and monitors current spirit activity around the world, and is the one to whom other members of the Brotherhood report unusual phenomenom. The fact there is more activity is but one of the reasons he suspects Adam may be the Sentinel predicted of ages ago. Perhaps he is the one who, with two others to help him, will defeat the resurgence of evil. But first he has a trial to survive.
Finch is superb at world-building in this debut novel, which could serve as the springboard for a series. But for that to happen, the writing will need to be more balanced between the expository writing that threatens to overwhelm the narrative and the action scenes. However, as a bonus, Finch, a children's librarian, adds an afterword with information and links about the real-world objects and places that figure in her story.
D'Scover is a particularly interesting character, with a fully developed past and present. He and Adam work well together. As dead guys, their ability to navigate the world is augmented by the addition of 14-year-old Edie to form a trio. The potential development of a relationship between the dead Adam and living Edie is a problem it would be interesting to see how Finch develops.
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