Review: Legend Unleashed by M. Latimer-Ridley

“Little Alice here is taking a trip down the rabbit-hole with you then.”

Regular readers will know that I interviewed M. Latimer-Ridley about Legend Unleashed before Christmas. Now that No More Books 2012 is over and I’m free to buy books again, I didn’t waste much time in picking up a copy. Thanks to the preview on their website I already knew it started with some brilliantly intriguing imagery. But how was the rest of it?

A wide black oak grandfather clock towered in front of him. A figure had been chiselled into it; a snarling animal with human hands trying to escape. Roughly carved and splintering in places, it was fused to the ground in a mixture of stone and wood. Numerous white rocks encircled it in a symbolic ring of salt, old magic that was supposed to trap demons inside.

Temperance Levinthal is a regular girl who finds herself caught up in a conflict between wizards and werewolves and finds out more about herself than she expected. Maybe that sounds like standard fare but it’s written with a wit and a warmth that keeps you engaged. There’s no overblown dramatics and not much teenage angst either. M. Latimer-Ridley hit the right tone unfailingly and that made this book an absolute pleasure to read.

“Poor crazy Levinthals, I hope you’ve taken your medication today, you’d be mad not to!”

The Twilight series has made paranormal romance seem rather hundrum now. In fact it’s difficult to make paranormal YA stand out. And Legend Unleashed doesn’t take massive steps to do so. Rather it folds in quirks and foibles that are memorable enough to make the story feel fresh yet comfortably familiar.

For example, Temperance is well aware that she suffers “hallucinations” and takes pills to keep them at bay. She relies on them for stability and it’s a very nice touch to see her rely on them more and more as her world is increasingly filled with impossible things. I do wish more had been done with this idea, but perhaps this will come up in a sequel. For now it’s a nice wrinkle.

A part of her had always wanted to find someone as lonely as she was.

This is a book that wears its Young Adult audience on its sleeve and I loved it for that. There is an enormous influx of YA titles of late and you get the feeling that a lot of writers are chasing the Twilight dollar. No such feeling here. This is true YA. It’s not a dumbed-down “adult” book; it’s written for its target audience. And, like all great books, it can be enjoyed by anyone.

It was nice to see wizards as well. We’ve seen lots of witches and werewolves and vampires but the poor wizard seems to get short thrift. So kudos to M. Latimer-Ridley for resurrecting the wizard.

If I have one complaint about this book it is this: it feels too rushed. M. Latimer-Ridley weave a nice world but I didn’t feel I was given enough time to explore it and settle in. Events happen at a breakneck speed and even major revelations don’t seem to have quite enough space to breath. It was quite a shame as I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the pacing had been a bit calmer. As it was the plot always seemed to have one eye on the horizon. I’d have preferred its full attention on the moments as they unfolded.

That said, if werewolves and YA are your thing then this book is for you and I can definitely recommend it. Legend Unleashed has a well-crafted world with some great characters and a nice, twisty plot. But all I can really say is that I would buy any sequels: what greater recommendation is there than that?

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