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I recently received a copy of A. Bello's children's book Emily Knight I Am... to review. The blurb on the back cover is quite vague so I turned to the first page having no real idea of what to expect. "How does it feel to be different and misunderstood? So what. Emily Knight is young and famous. But what if the thing that makes Emily different makes her a target? Can she defend herself ... and everything she loves?"
The opening scene throws us straight into the middle of a violent warrior battle, reminiscent of Roman gladiators battling it out in an amphitheatre, and this made me wonder if the setting was ancient Greece or Italy. Then there is mention of a man in jeans so it is obviously a contemporary setting. Then they start throwing fireballs at each other - ah, so we're heading into the realms of fantasy now? I started off floundering, trying to work out whether this was realistic fiction and I should be recognising myself in the character or if I should be aiming for a suspension of disbelief. Even the language used in the dialogues left me slightly wrong-footed. Phrases like "I ain't got nothing", "honey" and "Hi, I'm Donny, what can I help you with today?" sounded so full-on American that I couldn't help but read them with an American accent, but then there were mentions of Harrods and Mum and I realised that this is supposed to be in Britain. I was convinced that it was written by an American author, but I was wrong again, A. Bello is in fact from Hackney ! Even more surprising, although now aged 24, she was only 12 when she wrote it !
Once you've got your head around the setting, it's a really enjoyable and exciting read. Emily Knight is a typical 13-year-old girl, entering into the world of grumpy, rebellious teenhood. She has a huge chip on her shoulder but that's understandable as life has been rough on her. Her older brother Lox went missing several years ago, her mum died of cancer and her dad has gone off searching the world to try and find her brother and bring him home. Oh, and she has also started discovering that - just like her father and brother - she has special powers such as being able to create fireballs from her bare hands, fly and teleport, because she is a Warrior. She's not a very good one yet though and has very little control over her powers, so living in the shadow of her father, the greatest Warrior the world has ever known, leaves enormous shoes for her to fill.
Trying to attract her absent father's attention, Emily starts getting into more and more trouble so her godparents decide it's time for her to go to Warrior-school and learn to hone her powers. The Osaki Training School is like a cross between Hogwarts and Mallory Towers. Fans of Harry Potter will love the magical aspect with teleporting teachers, bottles of Reviving Water and Dojo, a violent cross between Quidditch (minus the broomsticks and with added fireballs and physical pain) and all-star wrestling.
All teens will recognise the sense of not fitting in, being scared of not living up to their parents' expectations and having their raging hormones take control of their bodies. Throw in some Enid Blytonesque boarding school high jinks and an exciting storyline with evil villains and family dramas and you get a book that will keep teens and pre-teens happily turning the pages.
The ending did slightly annoy me though. I know that the idea is to make you buy the next installment but the story comes to a grinding halt just as it is starting to get interesting with absolutely no sense of closure. I want to know what happens next so I guess I'll have to look out for the next book in the series !
star rating : 4/5
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Trafford (3 July 2012)
RRP : £7.64
RRP : £7.64
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
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