Banish really surprised me.
When I pick up a Paranormal Romance these days, especially in the Young Adult genre, I automatically brace myself for a barrage of tropes and clichés.
1) Average human girl meets brooding immortal boy – cue Love At First Sight.
2) Requisite villain does something villainous (at which point, I usually start yawning and skipping pages).
3) Happy ending.
The details may vary slightly. Sometimes the brooding immortal boy is a vampire. Sometimes he’s a werewolf, or a fallen angel or a fairy prince. But the basic formula never really changes.
Now maybe it sounds like I’m complaining. And maybe it sounds that way because I am complaining. The truth is, I’m sick to death of reading the same story over and over again, so when I come across an author who breaks away from all the predictable stereotypes, that’s when I reach for my metaphorical pom-poms and start cheering.
So here I go: Hooray for Nicola Marsh!
Banish was not at all what I expected from a Young Adult Paranormal Romance. For one thing, it’s not really very romantic. It would be more accurate to call it a psychological thriller with a supernatural twist. There is a hint of romance, but it’s refreshingly low key and more of a subplot than anything else.
Our heroine, Alyssa, is a seventeen year-old girl who has recently moved to New York to live with her aunt. As the story opens, we find Alyssa has been crushing on a (mortal!!) guy called Ronan for several months. And by Chapter Two they are dating like normal human beings.
Alyssa’s mother and aunt are both heavily involved in witchcraft, but she doesn’t believe in all that “pentagrams and broomsticks” nonsense. From the outset Alyssa’s character is established as being strong-willed, pragmatic and very skeptical about all things supernatural.
The paranormal elements in Banish are nicely understated, serving as more of an atmospheric tool. This is a traditional murder mystery with a spooky, otherworldly feel. As I was reading, I was often reminded of scary movies like The Ring and The Sixth Sense – psychological thrillers where it is never very clear whether the characters are victims of a supernatural menace… or just plain crazy.
Magic, Romance, Mystery and Suspense are all present and accounted for in Banish, but in a way they’re just the icing on the cake. The real story here is one of self discovery… which I know sounds incredibly lame, but shut up! It’s true! Alyssa deals with some pretty serious real life problems throughout the course of Banish - coming to terms with a personal tragedy and repairing a relationship with her estranged, alcoholic mother. And she does it all whilst simultaneously solving a murder, dating a hot musician and discovering a few supernatural powers along the way.
All in all, not bad for the first book in what looks set to be a great new series.
Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz. Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or see her tweet about all things Young Adult-ish at @sarahmcduling