by Christopher Pike
Recommended Age: 13+
The heroine of this tale is 13-year-old Ali Warner, a tree-hugging girl who lives in a town nestled between a forested mountain and the ocean. Her father is often on the road in his big rig, and her mother died a year ago in an accident that Ali herself mysteriously survived. And now Ali’s sanctuary, the peaceful woods of Pete’s Peak, is threatened by loggers. What begins as a mission to save the trees turns into a struggle for survival when Ali is chased by ravening monsters, then trapped by a landslide. Soon after that, a talking tree tells Ali that she has magical powers (only she hasn’t discovered how to use them yet), and that the fate of the whole world is in her hands.
Ali gathers three of her human friends, and later some not-quite-human ones, for a gruelling hike up the side of Pete’s Peak. For at the very summit is a gateway that only Ali can close – and she must close it to prevent an invasion from the dimension where fairies, dwarves, and elves live. The elementals are ticked at the human race because of the damage they do to the environment, not only on earth but in the elemental world as well. A genocidal war is about to break out that can only end in the destruction of both worlds... unless Ali and her reluctant, bickering, sometimes resentful friends can stop it.
It isn’t an easy hike. Besides the weight of their gear and the effort of walking uphill, the group has to deal with foul weather, thin air, and attacks by various magical creatures – including the particularly nasty “dark fairies,” who want the war to happen more than anything so that they can pick up the pieces and rule everywhere. Plus, Ali is faced with seven trials. If she passes them, her power grows... if she fails, she dies, and takes the whole show with her. And the closer she gets to the goal of her journey, the more certain she is that one of her companions is a vile traitor.
Here is a prolific author of young adult and fantasy fiction, whose books I had somehow never read before. Alosha was an interesting introduction to his work. The sequel, Shaktra, was due to arrive late in 2005, and I may have to keep an eye out for the paperback. [EDIT: I have it, but alas, it joins another 100 books on my "get around to it" list.] This is a thoroughly engaging adventure, with moments of deep horror, shocks that pierce you to the heart, lovable but flawed characters, and a series of concentric mysteries that delight the imagination as they unfold. Pike’s writing style is not always flawlessly smooth, but at times his words evoked powerful images. I can’t say any better for this book than the fact that I came to the end wanting more.
EDIT: According to Wiki, Christopher Pike's real name is Kevin McFadden (not to be confused with the poet by the same name). This series has moved on to a third book, The Yanti; a fourth, titled Nemi, has yet to be released.