Exiled (The Protector #1) by M.R. Merrick - 5 of 5 stars
Release Date: June 28. 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Length: 264 pages
Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the altar to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase's birthday, the bloodline stopped.
Exiled without the Circle's protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle's agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can't do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna — a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret.
In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle's plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other's life depending on it.
One of the most interesting parts of this series for me is the fact that it's so different from the general formula for this genre. There's a very different perspective to a male protagonist who's also written by someone who was actually once a teenage male. I got just as frustrated with Chase (in a completely loving way, of course) as I have with all of my guy friends over the years. Things along the lines of 'god, you just don't get girls' and 'really, can't you see Rayna's awesome? Just kiss her already!', and 'why are you being such a dude' (pretty much exact transcripts right there). While there were a lot of thoughts along these lines, as well as eye rolls, and to some that may make it seem like I wasn't enjoying the book, it goes a long way to showing just how much I love the characters and got into the story. My annoyance is the truest expression of affection. Fact.
And I really did get into this story. Merrick creates a world that starts off close enough to the one we know that it's exceptionally easy to fall into. Then, by the end of the book, he's seamlessly woven in an addition in the different dimensions that is so interesting and fanciful, it's incredible. The descriptions of the landscape and residents of Drakar are amazing and so different from Earth, while still allowing the reader to create a vivid mental picture. You just can't help but be swept in as the images play along like a movie.
The descriptions throughout the book are like that: painting a vivid picture of every scene as it unfolds. Whether it's a fight scene or a highly emotional conversation, you're thrown into the thick of it and feel like an invested player. You can't help but feel everything that's happening to the characters and (if you're like me) may even start talking at your book. Maybe even aloud. I'm an enthusiastic individual.
Which might have something to do with why I enjoyed the characters so much. They're all deep and passionate, and easy to relate to in the ways that matter. Despite the fact that basically every character in the book could kill you pretty easily (except Willy, but we love him anyway), Merrick manages to seamlessly transition them into vulnerability when the time is right. There were moments I smiled stupidly, squealed, and cried, and it felt like it was right along with these characters. I certainly won't be forgetting them anytime soon.
I would basically recommend this to anyone. It's especially great, because I can even guilt my friends who make fun of my taste in "girly books" into trying it. I already bugged Caroline about picking it up. While I was still reading it. I was that into it. Anyone who YA paranormal will think this is a winner, if I do say so myself. And now that the last book is out, cliffhangers are a non-issue!
My only regret concerning this book is that I bought the Kindle version, thinking it wasn't available in hard copy. I much prefer hard copies, especially if I love the book. So now I want the paperback. Sigh.