By E. E. Rawls
Publication Date: October 2019
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
How much do you like vampires?
I could answer that question with “Not at all”, but after watching Dracula: Untold and Hotel Transylvania with my family, a small part of my hear opened up to allow myself to say, “They’re okay.”
But today, I am here to tell you that vampires rock! Or, at least E. E. Rawls’s vampires do. Called ‘vempars’ in her debut middle-grade novel Strayborn, Rawls paints a whole new picture of vampires, letting the world explore a side of them never seen in common fiction—vulnerability. Humanity.
Strayborn illustrates the tale of a young half-vempar girl named Cyrus living in the human village of Elvenstone, hated and feared by everyone except a boy named Huntter. She is also mocked for her boyish appearance, leaving her feel unwanted. Then, her life is turned around when she runs into a vempar trapped in a cage and frees him. In return, he takes her to the vempar capital city of Draethvyle, where she feels free to use her powers.
But things don’t get any easier for Cyrus. Now she must hide her human side and is disguised as a boy in a school mostly attended by boy vempars. But with her new friend Aken at her side, Cyrus just might have a chance to make a name for herself. Strayborn is told mostly from the perspective of Cyrus, but also follows Aken, Master Nephryte, and several other key players. Usually, the amount of point of view chapters used in this book would be confusing, but Rawls writes in a way that makes the transitions flow smoothly.
While one could call this novel a fun romp, it also addresses more serious issues, like bullying, racism, and gender identity. Rawls points out each one with gentleness, and addresses the issues with grace and kindness, making this book packed with undermined values.
Strayborn is a fun, interesting twist on vampires, making them more child-friendly while addressing more serious themes throughout. I would recommend this book to anyone who reads middle-grade fiction, fantasy, and/or has a love of vampires, or wants to read a story with them without diving into darker tales.
I Rate It: 4 stars
Elemental Manipulation is a tricky business. Only those with the power can train to become a Draev Guardian.
Cyrus Sole hates life. She’s only half-human, with weak wrists, and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something mean about it—especially her step-mom. But when the forbidden power to manipulate metal awakens inside her, she finds herself on the run as the Argos Corps is sent to kill her…
Aken is a Scourgeblood, the last in a line of monsters. But all he really wants is to gain wings and be free. Until a new power suddenly awakens, changing the course of his life…
The Draev Guardian Academy is their only sanctuary. But training to become a Draev won’t be easy. Cyrus has to hide her human side, as she gets placed in Floor Harlow with the outcast students, and nightmares of her deceased mother keep returning.
With creepy Corpsed on the prowl, and whispers of Cyrus possibly being a reborn Hero, both she and Aken find themselves caught up in a web of secrets, racial tension, and an old legend with enemies that could spell their untimely demise…
Strayborn is a good fit for those who’ve enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy world-building, and the fun of J.K. Rowling.
About the Author:
E. E. Rawls is the product of a traveling family, who even lived in Italy for 6 years. She loves exploring the unknown, whether it be in a forest, the ruins of a forgotten castle, or in the pages of a book. Her brain runs on coffee, cuddly cats, and the mysterious beauty of nature while she writes.