First things first I need to say a huge thank you to T. R. Allardice, for allowing me to review this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
After uprooting the family, Jean starts school at T.I.P.S – the Tokyo International Preternatural School. Her mother gets a job teaching, and Jean finds the perfect way to make friends: there’s a mysterious monster roaming the streets of Tokyo, so she gathers a band of people together to go on hunting trips. She makes friends with a Ghoul, a Spark and a Vampire, and is instantly fascinated by Michael, a lion Shifter who she’s enamoured with the second she meets him.
Jean attended a school for Preternaturals – or Preters – when she was younger, but had a terrible experience with the Fae. This means when she meets Akio “Spider” Takahaski, Fae extraordinaire, she’s understandably apprehensive. When he starts helping her out on a regular basis she gets even more suspicious about his motives. Spider’s father is the leader of the Assembly (the Preternatural government) and they are investigating Jean’s affiliation with the monster she’s been hunting, and the random appearance of a palace door in the school corridor.
Due to Jean’s flirtation with Michael she’s on the receiving end of the hatred of his ex-girlfriend, Ashley, so when Spider starts helping her out against Ashley she can’t understand why. Spider seems to want to be friends with her, but she finds it hard to trust him so their relationship is strained. When Jean thinks she’s developing feelings for him, things get even more tense: why would she like him, when she had a chance with the “yummy” Michael?
But then Jean’s powers appear, and they manifest in the form of the Queen’s Gift. The Preternaturals haven’t had a queen in hundreds of years, and while their are Loyalists who support the return of the monarchy, the Majority are supporting the Assembly and their leadership. The Assembly are automatically biased against Jean due to the threat that she poses to their power, but when the old Queen appears and calls her a fraud, Jean’s even more confused. She finally thought she knew who she was, then her entire life was thrown into turmoil once again. When the Queen announces that her parents are treasonous, they get arrested, and Jean needs to decide whether to overthrow the old Queen and fully embrace her powers to save her family.
Because of where this book finishes, it’s extremely anti-climactic. We don’t officially find out about Jean having the Queen’s Gift until the last quarter of the book (unless you count the synopsis, which really ruins the entire novel) and because everything happens quickly it’s very disorienting and confusing – I constantly felt like I’d missed something and had to reread pages at a time. The exact back story of Jean’s parents treason, and their previous relationship with the Queen, was all withheld – likely to be so it can feature in the next novel (if there is one, I can find no information on a sequel online at this time) – but it just left it feeling underdeveloped, under-explained and extremely underwhelming.
The love triangle between Jean, Spider and Michael is unconvincing. To put it politely, Michael is a massive douchebag: he kisses Jean to make his ex-girlfriend jealous, won’t walk her home when she refuses to go back to his house, and gets overly controlling about why she’s checking her phone. Spider, on the other hand, is a sweetheart – he genuinely cares about Jean and tries to help her in every way that he can, even when it gets him into sticky situations with his father. The love triangle is resolved by the end of the novel, with Michael defending Ashley over Jean, but that just gives any potential future novels one less plot point.
I found T. R. Allardice’s attitude towards eating disorders was a particularly harmful aspect of the novel. Karen, the Ghoul, suffers from bulimia, but it ‘takes more than bulimia to kill a Ghoul’, so Jean is fine with it. Yeah, you read that right: her new friend suffers from a debilitating illness, but because it won’t kill her it’s absolutely fine. I think that’s a dreadful attitude towards bulimia, even if Karen is part of a fictional species: if you’re writing YA, you should NEVER imply that eating disorders are okay. For me, the book lost an entire star just based off of that throwaway attitude.
The idea behind the story was intriguing, but I think this is another one of those times when the execution has fallen short. The mysterious monsters appearing randomly all over the world could have had a brilliant explanation, but it ended up being one of the least exciting reveals of all time. Jean’s Queen’s Gift could have been more epic; instead it only allows her to siphon powers from other Preters. It might have been interesting if she’d been able to sap their powers and then use them for herself, but just making the people around her powerless was a bit of a disappointing ‘Gift’. The species of Preters that were explored were well thought out, but it would have been nicer to get more information about them. It feels like there are so many names being thrown at us without us really getting any context: we learn a lot about Ghouls because of Karen, but the rest of it is very throwaway information with little to no explanation. I, for one, would have loved to know more about Stefan the vampire. Why doesn’t he burn up in the sun? What is the vampire mythology like in this world?
It feels like Jean discovering her powers and her parents being arrested should have occurred in the middle of the novel instead of right at the end, because it doesn’t feel as though there’s enough story left to merit a sequel: especially not when so many non-events happened throughout this first installment! I’m not even slightly interested in seeing how Jean’s story ends, so I definitely won’t be following through with this series – it’s a shame, because the premise had me very excited about the story.