I bought books 1-3 at a book fair, because I like to support indie authors. I was pleased with them–I’m always fond on good world building and character development. And toss in some weird and sometimes terrifying critters, and I am all in!

The author was kind enough to send me book 4, but my thoughts are still my own.

Though I’ve seen this series labeled YA, and it does have a young protagonist, it’s not the sort of YA that leaves sometimes older readers cold because of a focus on romance, school angst, etc. In fact, the protagonist is quite mature and concerned with survival in a harsh world, though you never really forget she’s a child.

Book 4–there’s enough backstory woven in that you could start here, but you’d miss a lot of cool happenings. (The set up is that Cheobawn Blackwind lives in domes on a very dangerous colonized planet. There’s some seriously deadly flora and fauna out there–and the animals, in particular, hunt by psychic abilities to confuse or lure their prey. And they find humans tasty. So the dome dwellers manipulate genes to create strong psychic females who can form packs to go out and bring food and supplies back to the dome. Cheobawn, however, is a black bead, bad luck–and it’s quite difficult for her to find somewhere to fit it.)

If you want to start from the beginning, no spoilers, go and read Black Bead.

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It’s pretty impossible to review a fourth book without some spoilers for the previous ones, but I’ll do my best.

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Ten-year-old Cheobawn Blackwind is growing up much faster and more powerful than anyone expected from a bad luck Black Bead. She’s led her pack of hunters into some remarkable adventures, made some powerful allies, and learned some truths her elders didn’t necessarily want her to know. Then she discovers the plot she’d always suspected behind her birth is deeper and darker than she ever feared. Even worse, a shift in alliances means that the mere idea of her bad luck could endanger her pack–and the whole dome. When she looks into the future, in all but one possible path, she dies–so she’ll have to face down impossible odds, or lose everything she holds dear.

This series started off with smaller crises, and just the right amount of backstory, character development, and world building. You learn a lot about Cheobawn, especially, her tough childhood and powers, and also about her pack mates, and why they’d choose a bad luck charm like her. Their relationship makes you totally invested in their survival. Then book 3 set up this larger problem Cheobawn now faces. And in book 4, things really begin to fall apart. Secrets are revealed, harsh truths are told, and tough decisions are made. As always, the detailed (and deadly) landscape plays a big part, with eerily intelligent animals as characters in their own right, some allies, others enemies, and a few falling into a gray area.

Despite the protagonist’s age, this isn’t a simple story–it has some thoughtful things to say about family, political choices/ alliances, and doing what’s needed. Perhaps this is because the protagonist is close to grown by her culture’s views, or because she’s already shouldered a lot at her age. I really feel for Cheobawn, as she’s just one person facing difficult odds. Somehow, she finds it in her to keep trying, and that’s what makes me root for her the most. She isn’t certain of her success, and at times feels despair at the tasks ahead of her, but with a little help, she’s worked miracles before. And I sure hope she pulls out a miraculous last minute save again! The end of the book is a pause, the calm before the storm sweeps over the world again, and left me eager to see what’s coming next.

Highly recommended for fans of strong female protagonists, excellent world building, high tension action, and scary wildlife.

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About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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