Title: Return to Arèthane
Author: Kelly Riad
16-year old Emily has accepted her fate with each weakening beat of her heart, but after her best friend's brother and sister arrive in town and turn out to be more than what they appear, Emily's life is turned upside-down. When their friendship includes confronting wizards who harbor dark secrets and dancing with an elf prince, Emily discovers there are some things still worth living for.
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The cover is so beautiful. I mean, it's not the usual kind of cover that draws me, but something about it was very interesting. The title was gripping, because as I've mentioned before, I enjoy uncommon, foreign or made up names. The cover and title, alongside the synopsis - that didn't reveal so much - I was hooked and wanting to read more.
Emily's life used to be perfect, or at least seemed it, until her life went downhill and she changed. One day she up and dumped her boyfriend, quit the cheerleading squad, got a lip ring and refused to dress conventionally. Even though she comes from money, it doesn't compensate the fact that she has an absent father and an alcoholic mother. Her life takes a turn to, well, not exactly the best or worst, but certainly weird when her best friend's brother and sister come to town to stay. Her best friend's brother, Jarrad, just had to be hot and of course, her being her, the first time she met him had to be when her mother was drunk and causing a scene. Though, for some strange reason he was nice to her and paid her more attention than the rest of the girls trailing after him. That and, for some reason Dafne's - her best friend- sister was a lot different than the other two, more hostile with an icy demeanor. The more time she spends with the siblings , the more she realizes some strange things are happening and she couldn't explain it at all. What on earth was going on?
As I mentioned at the start, I love unusual names, so is it any surprise I adored the characters in this book? I mean, with names like Jarrad, Karawyn, Aerath and Jabari, how could I not? It's quite new and refreshing having the important character in the book not be the heroine nor the guy she's falling for. In this case it was Karawayn.
At first I was a bit confused on why the point of views shift from Emily and Karawyn and not say, Emily and Jarrad, since that would make more sense, but then it became obvious that it must have been Karawyn's importance here. It was quite an interesting contrast between the two characters, since Emily is real, human, with feelings stringing from happiness to sadness, and anger. There were emotions and interests and livelihood. With Karawyn however, it was not. She obviously wasn't human in the conventional sense, and she had no bubbly emotions. They all ranged from anger to disinterest and pain. Quite different actually that even though they wouldn't be announced as the different points of views changed, you could tell from their mood.
I actually felt sorry for Emily from the start. Even though it appears that she's rich and has the coolest friends and lifestyles, with a mother like that and an absent father I wouldn't envy her it at all. Then there was the mysterious intake of pills, I was curious about it from the start. I actually think the fact that she suffered and had such a teenager moment of being embarrassed by her mother at a restaurant and to make it worse in front of a super hot guy, I completely felt for her as it made her seem more realistic. That and the other traumatic incidents she'd gone through.
The writing was actually quite good, easy, flowing and made for a great read. There was also the added humor and unique touches that made this book one of the best I've read these past few weeks. Though, I've read a lot this month so I can't remember mostly. Just that Kelly Riad has become one of my new favourite authors and I cannot wait for 'Prince of Aréthane' to come out!
(Just so I can share some of the awesomeness that is this book)
“Can you grant wishes?”
“Depends on what you wish for.” He grinned.
Emily’s eyebrows lifted, but she didn’t take the bait. “Can you cast spells?”
“We don’t cast spells,” he said. “Spells require incantations and potions and we need none of that. But we have something we do. Your ancestors called them elf spells, but they’re actually enchantments.”
“A sort of…hypnosis. We can bend humans to our will. Make them forget, or remember what never was.”
“What?” Emily turned to Dafne. “Is that what you did to me in the green house?”
Dafne’s shoulders came up, a pained look of guilt on her face. “Yes, I’m sorry,” she said. “But it obviously didn’t stick. My enchantments aren’t that powerful.”
Emily frowned, despite being impressed.
“Jarrad’s really good at it,” Dafne added, nodding toward her brother.
“How do you do it?” Emily asked him.
“Well…it’s hard to explain,” he said.
“Show me then,” she shrugged.
“No,” he answered, shaking his head.
“No?” she squeaked. “Why not?”
“I’m not going to manipulate you.”
“Oh, come on!” she complained, standing up from the railing. “Your sister had no problem with it. And it’s not manipulation if I want you to.”
“It is. It’s placing you in a vulnerable state.”
“I trust you.” Which was weird, because she hadn’t trusted anyone in awhile.
“It doesn’t matter.” He shrugged and his expression looked determined.
Dafne watched with a wide smile on her face, thoroughly enjoying their back and forth banter, seeming to hope for her brother’s defeat. Emily decided on a different approach.
“Please?” she begged.
“Emily, don’t,” he said, looking down, seeming suddenly troubled as he gripped the railing he still leaned against.
“Please?” she repeated, sweetly.
“Emily,” he sighed, breaking down under her pleas.
Did she actually just bat her eyes? Why was she so anxious to be placed under an elf spell? Curiosity…what did it do to that cat?
He huffed and stood up. “Very well.” He tossed his ice cream cone into the trash can, brushed his hands off, and looked around. “But you can’t get upset if you don’t like how it feels.”
“I won’t,” Emily promised. She had a feeling she would love how it feels. Pleased with her victory, she squared off in front of him. “What do I do?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Whatever I say,” he said, playful mischief twinkling in his eyes and her cheeks grew warm again.
Taking hold of her arms, he moved closer, slowly, until she could feel heat pulsing between them. He lowered his head, his eyes focused on hers.
And she was stuck. Instantly transfixed.
She couldn’t blink. She couldn’t move.
She didn’t want to do either, waiting for him to speak again.
Everything disappeared into the two heavenly skies that were his eyes and she was lost in their cloudy details, swimming lucidly in some other world. He blinked—slowly, deliberately—lowering his eyelids like the deep undulation of a wave and she felt a wash of swirling rainbow ecstasy flood her body, running down her neck and arms, moving like thick syrup through her lungs, filling up her rib cage, surrounding her heart, before crawling down her legs.
Then she no longer felt her legs. Emily no longer knew if her hand still held the ice cream.
Her eyelids grew heavy, so heavy, as though a drug eased and slipped its way through her
veins. And then she watched with breathless anticipation as his lips moved.
“Emily?” His voice caressed her ears and traveled like a hand tracing down her neck, pulling her, willingly, unquestioningly wherever he led.
“Yes?” she breathed, lips parted and barely moving.
“Do you wish to please me? Will you obey my every command?”
“Yes.” And she did. She would. Obey him and no other. The option to disagree or disappoint him was inconceivable to her. Just to see him smile; she waited for him to command her so she might serve him. It was a feeling unlike any other. She had no control. And she didn’t care.
“If I asked you to go on a date with me, would you?”
“Yes.” It was the only word she knew. The only word she could push across her lips, the rest of her body arrested by his eyes.
“If I asked you anything…”
“Anything,” she sighed.
“I want you to lo—…” He stopped. Frowning, he pressed his lips together, and the need to know what he wanted from her nearly broke her.
With his head tilted slightly, Jarrad thought a moment then asked, “What is your greatest fear?”
Without hesitation, she answered, “My heart.”
She couldn’t read the thoughts playing across his face and she wanted to so much. She wanted him to speak again. She wanted the moment to never end. Then he sighed and the scent threw her into a whirlpool of strawberries and cream delight.
Though he stood so close, his voice echoed from far away.
“Emily?” he said from the other side of the world. “Emily, are you with me?”
The words hurled toward her, growing louder and louder until she blinked, face tilted up to him, her head cocked.
“Emily?” he repeated, his brow furrowed. “It’s done.”
Done? What was done?
Oh. The spell.
That was it? But she felt fine. No enchantment, no hypnosis.
She couldn’t really remember what she had just been doing, but she was fully confident she had not fallen under his spell.
Emily grinned up at him. Jarrad looked confused.
“Guess your magic doesn’t work on me, Casanova,” she said, pushing him aside.
But her words were slurred, her voice came from somewhere outside of her body, moving slow and tar-like. He lifted his eyebrows, taking a step back.
What control Emily had over her legs was lost; it was as though they had disappeared completely. Then she collapsed. Jarrad grabbed her, catching her before she hit the ground and eased her down.
With confusion, she studied her surroundings, sitting on the cold concrete with legs spread out and Jarrad kneeling between them, one arm still around her and the other holding her by the elbow. His face was knitted with concern. She still held that stupid ice cream cone.
“Did I just fall?” Emily looked up at him with bewilderment.
Laughter exploded from Dafne somewhere behind Jarrad and his concern vanished, replaced with amusement. He bit his lips together, the corners tugging up, trying to suppress
his own laughter.
“Dropped would be more accurate,” he said with a grin.
Emily realized then he’d had complete control over her. He could have done more with her and to her than Abe ever could have dreamed and yet Jarrad did nothing with that power.
And somehow Emily knew he never would. He would never take advantage of her. She also now recognized the strange rush she had continually felt when looking into his eyes, he’d been enchanting her the whole time whether he realized it or not.
Jarrad helped Emily up to her feet. She looked around, rocking unsteadily back and forth.
Dafne sat on the ground, cross-legged, with her face buried in her hands. Her body shook with silent laughter.
“Thanks, Daf,” Emily said to her dryly. Dafne lifted one hand, palm out, and shook her head, still shaking.
“Are you okay? You aren’t mad, are you?” Jarrad asked, still holding her by the elbow.
“No, I’m not mad,” she said, shaking her head. “That was…crazy, but really, really amazing.
You’re kinda dangerous, you know?”
“Not really,” he said. “We never use our powers for evil.”
“Good to know.” She smiled at him. “You can stop laughing now,” she said to Dafne, her voice loud and annoyed.
“May I try something else?” Jarrad asked, ignoring his sister’s laughs.
“Another elf spell?” Emily asked.
“Enchantment,” he corrected her. “I’d like to show you something.”
Dafne’s laughter stopped; she looked up at her brother. Emily turned to her for help, but she only shrugged.
“I won’t fall again, will I?”
“I won’t let you fall,” he said.
When she nodded her consent, he threw away her melting ice cream cone and took her in his hands again, his touch soft and warm but he soon let go and placed them on her face at her temples. Digging his fingers into her hair, he cupped her face and commanded her attention once again. But as she stared into his eyes, this time she did not feel the euphoric fall through space. Instead, the gazebo started to twinkle and dissolve into a million little points of light that fell to the ground, showering around them like falling fireworks, revealing another world in their trail.
They stood beneath a different gazebo, this one made of thick, gray stone, cracked along
one column and dressed in vines. Trees appeared around them, glittery moss snaking up the trunks, the night filling the spaces in between with dark shadows. Curling clusters of pale purple and yellow flowers hung from feathery, leafy vines clinging to the arches of the gazebo.
The hard wooden floor beneath their feet was replaced by broken stone through which soft, thick grass grew in patches and the sounds of cars passing by on the street faded, the soft chirping of crickets and the songs of night birds taking their place. From some distance,
Emily could hear a brook lapping against a pebble shore.
With Jarrad still holding her face, Emily looked up at a mural painted in Fresco above, depicting ancient elves in faded colors. Jarrad let his hands slide down her neck, then shoulders and arms until he held her hands, never letting go.
“You asked if I could ever go back home,” he said, his voice heavy with emotion. He stood completely still, as though focusing all of his control. “For now, this is the only way.”
“This is your home?” Emily twisted her body around to see everything while still clutching Jarrad’s hands tightly. It looked like something out of a fairy tale; the trees massive with smooth trunks along which sparkling moss snaked, and a low mist that cloaked grassy pathways and rocky hills. Little lights danced across the leaves of the trees.
She leaned toward one of the flowers; she could smell its soft perfume. Jarrad let go of one hand and laced his fingers through hers with the other, keeping a tight connection.
“You can touch it.” He inclined his head toward the flower.
She looked at him questioningly and he nodded. With hesitation, she reached out until the velvet petals were against her fingertips. “It’s real,” she whispered.
“Only because we’ve made it real,” Jarrad said. He watched her with a slight smile as she tickled the flower.
“How are we here?”
“Through my memory. I’ve just made it your memory, too; your reality, actually.”
“This is your home,” Emily said with wonder as she looked all around. Just the day before, she never knew elves existed and now she stood in the middle of another world. Even though it was a created memory, no more than manipulated imagination, it felt so real. And Jarrad had shared it with her. She squeezed his hand and smiled.
“You’re welcome.” He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. As he did, everything began to dissolve, fluttering in pieces like falling leaves until they stood once again beneath the little wooden gazebo at the park.
Even though she didn’t want to, Emily let go of Jarrad’s hand.
“You’re amazing,” she said.
He smiled with pride then glanced over at his sister, leaning against the railing with her arms and legs crossed.
Shaking her head, Dafne fought back a smirk and said, “Show off.”
About the Author:
Kelly Riad is from Texas where she lived with her husband and a house overrun by pets. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is determined to bring the y'all to the West Coast. While she published her first book - a handmade pop-up titled "The Lost Puppy" - in the fifth grade to much acclaim by the first graders, she only recently picked the craft back up. "Return to Arèthane" is her second published novel.