by Rachel Hawkins
'Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.
Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.
With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.'
*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
This book was fun. It was weak in a lot of areas, which I'll go into more in a bit, but it was strong in others and it was just a quick, fun read. I actually have the book Debutantes and Daggers, which looks like this . . .
. . . and is a compilation that includes Rebel Belle and Miss Mayhem, the first two books in this series. When I first saw this in the store I was like "Whaaaat the heck?" and couldn't help but pick it up to have a better look. Then, seeing that it starts off saying something about how 'none of this would have happened if I'd had lip gloss,' I was hooked.
So anyway, this first book, Rebel Belle has main character Harper unknowingly and awkwardly becoming a paladin at the Homecoming dance. LOL! Okay wait. The book is not an actual comedy, but it's not as serious and dark as something like the Shadowhunters books or other YA books. Harper has some sass and plenty of arrogance. It takes place in the south so all that southern charm is there, and I love how manners, etiquette, and respect are all very important. There is sort of a Beautiful Creatures vibe in that way.
When Harper becomes a paladin, she knows something has happened to her but doesn't know just what. She soon suspects she has awesome new superpowers and spends the weekend watching Spiderman, X-men, etc. superhero movies as research. She tries to figure out just what superpowers she's received by doing things like jumping to see if she can levitate, or staring at pictures to see if she has laser beam eyes. It's all quite quirky early on! She eventually figures out it's her enemy David she's now charged with protecting, and from there learns more about what a paladin is and why she has become one.
And this is where things get weak. I thought a book about paladins would be an interesting new twist compared to all the vampires and nephilim and demon hunters in the usual YA books I've read. I'm aware of paladins from video games like UO and World of Warcraft that I have played. I thought this book had great potential! But it just fell short because the author didn't delve deeply into that whole paranormal world. Sure, we learn that David is an oracle (can see the future) and that he's ultra rare and needs to be protected. We learn that his aunt who has raised him since he was a baby, is not really his aunt after all but had stolen him to protect him and oh, she's a mage. Paladins AND mages?! Heck yeah!!! But no. The mage explains that the three of them work as a team, that there must always be a paladin and mage to help protect the oracle. Okay, but protect him from what? From who? It never really does go into that. And thinking about it, an oracle in this day and age is probably not all that valuable. I mean, we're such a small world now, insta-connected with everyone and everything in this tech age. Unless an oracle is having nonstop and very clear visions about things that affect the whole dang world, does it even really matter? Sure, back in the medieval age when things were spread out and secluded and your 'world' was your little area you lived in, yeah an oracle probably would have been important and worth protecting. It just doesn't work in a modern age story though. At least not for me.
Still, there was enough mystery and intrigue to keep me reading. Who was this mysterious other mage? Why does she want to claim David as her own, and kill Harper? What exactly is Miss Saylor's (David's 'aunt') mysterious past? There are a lot of hints that she might not be all she's pretending to be. And who the heck are they protecting David from?!
Of course there is a big showdown, which is again quirky. Tainted punch at the Cotillion, anyone? And in a strange twist of events, two of Harper's friends are drawn into this mysterious mess.
Another weak area is that apparently six weeks or so pass in the course of this story but it seems like only about two or three days. There is much made of Harper's training and how important everything is but the story just glosses over most things. It's like, six weeks passed and only one or big things happened? Well, heck, this paladin job is going to be a piece of cake. In six weeks of supposedly intense training, why haven't we learned more about . . . well, anything? If this oracle only had one very vague vision in that time, what is it about him that these unknown others are so determined to have? Ya know? Sooooo much potential just sort of skipped over.
The strong areas of the story are the relationships. If this author has just regular YA or contemporary romance novels, I'd probably be very interested in reading them. The relationships Harper has with her best friend, with some other classmates, with her boyfriend, and with David, are all really well written. You go through the gradual decline of her relationship and the building relationship with David, and you feel for all three of them.
The weak parts and the stupid ending really were eye roll worthy for me but there were enough good things about the book that I'll gladly dive into the next one to see where this all goes. I also discovered that this author also wrote the Hex Hall series, which I've had on my wish list for ages! I think I will go ahead and bump those books up to the top now.
Have you read Rebel Belle, or anything by Rachel Hawkins?