Age's Reviews > Token of Darkness
by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Goodreads Author)
Very few YA Fantasy books are able to break the mold and become something more than just a YA Fantasy book. Token of Darkness is no exception. Generally, it is fairly conventional in terms of plot and pacing, but it did do several things I appreciated, things that Atwater-Rhodes' early work did not do.
There are SPOILERS ahead....
Often YA Lit deals with stereotypes in much the same way actual teenagers do (a disservice to a reader of any age). Instead of a brooding, emo-type protagonist, the reader is introduced to a thoughtful former football player dealing with both supernatural visions of shadowy creatures and a "ghost" named Samantha. Yes, he does meet the quiet loner and becomes friends with him (Brent), but neither character is defined solely by those descriptions.
And honestly, one of the most refreshing characters for me was Delilah. Yes, she's a cheerleader, but she's also interested in art, and she helps create sets for school plays. Also, I may have failed to mention that she uses magic, wants to increase her power and is unscrupulous in her methods, and maintains a very self-reliant, bold philosophy (which would come off as "bitchy" to some - a term I hate since similar characteristics are appreciated in some of the most popular male villains in every fandom that exists).
Atwater-Rhodes deviates from the norm by giving these characters more depth and humanity.
The story is fast-paced, the ideas behind it engaging and interesting, and, thankfully, the author adds more to her overall world by adding psychics and less typical magic-users (I wasn't a huge fan of the Vida family, especially as described in Demon in My View; Shattered Mirror definitely was an improvement, but I much prefer Delilah to those types of witches).
Of course, I do agree that there are some things to criticize. For example, the book should have been longer. In fact, several of Atwater-Rhodes' books should be longer, particularly this novel and Persistence of Memory. At this stage in her career, she is doing herself and the reader a disservice by writing such short novels.
This novel could have used more resolution regarding Cooper's relationship with his parents (this was only barely touched on when he finally spoke to his mother before Delilah is taken to the hospital). The inclusion of Margaret was too jarring, and the ethics of all of this body switching really rubbed me the wrong way. Some may say the ending was too "neat," but I feel there wasn't enough follow-through. With both Margaret's memories and her knowledge of being an elemental, I'm uncertain how Samantha/Margaret can adapt to "normal" life, and to not address that certainly leaves the reader hanging. And, I'm not typically for the pairing off of several characters. The text's implication that Brent and Delilah might still have something, and the implication that Samantha and Cooper will go on to date made me cringe; it was a bit too much, too quickly. And honestly so many of these characters are in different places emotionally, it makes the romance seem tacked on and unbelievable.
However, I do think that this book hits more than it misses even if the author may have overreached. I think if she wrote more than 200 page novellas, she'd be able to more completely tell the tale.