Friday, May 22, 2015

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick #1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

You're a 14-year-old boy with a cruel felon for an absentee father and an overly protective stripper for a mother. You live in a one-room home and feel badly outclassed and ostracized at the prestigious school you only get to attend because of an academic scholarship. You're bullied at school, henpecked at home, and even your friends turn out to just be using you until they can betray you.

Nick Gauthier just can't win. That is, until the demons and shapeshifters and vampires and zombies come to town...

The Chronicles of Nick is a prequel/spin-off from Sherrilyn Kenyon's very successful and WILDLY not-school-appropriate adult paranormal romance Dark-Hunter, Were-Hunter, and Dream-Hunter series. While the adult series are aimed at female readers who prefer their romance novels full of brooding, broken beasts who find redemption through protecting and partnering with strong female protagonists, these YA novels are definitely aimed at a male reader and are a solid PG. (Well, maybe PG-13, but that's just the fantasy violence, not sexual content.)

The first book in the series, Infinity introduces us to Kenyon's dizzying cast of species and major players. In the tradition of pretty much every story of this type ever, Nick is NOT WHAT HE SEEMS and is in fact at the center of a vast supernatural battle for the VERY FATE OF THE WORLD. It starts with zombie football players taking chomps out of the school nerds and escalates fairly rapidly into a complicated -- maybe too complicated -- fight between different factions of demons and paranormal folk. The book serves the dual purpose of initiating readers into Kenyon's version of New Orleans while taking readers on a wild, zombie-smashing, street-fighting ride. Heck, there's even a touch of time travel in there.

Infinity isn't the best-written book I've ever read, but it's fun, fast-paced, and has plenty in it to appeal to anyone who likes urban fantasy or paranormal lit. Kenyon does a remarkable job of getting into the head of a 14-year-old boy and embracing his non-supernatural problems, like the complicated relationship between a boy and his mom, or the arrival at school of a cute new girl who actually seems to like him. That keeps Nick relateable to readers even as he wields rocket launchers, out-of-nowhere kung fu skills, and new magical abilities to take down zombie hordes and save his friends from an evil video game. Yeah, like I said... it's complicated.

As a reader of Kenyon's adult books, I recognized a lot of familiar names and thought her treatment of them in a YA setting was pretty interesting. Without that background, I wonder if it would be hard to follow what was going on -- in fact, after reading it, I'm still not sure if I completely understand whether a few characters were good guys, bad guys, or something else entirely. More importantly, I'm a little troubled by the prospect of a young reader finishing this series and reaching for a Dark-Hunter novel, expecting innocent fantasy violence and instead getting SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY. The school librarian in me feels it can't be emphasized enough that the majority of Kenyon's books are completely inappropriate for teens. That said, the Chronicles of Nick are flying off my bookshelves and gaining a fervent fan club among even my more conservative readers who have a taste for the supernatural.

(Currently six books and two graphic novels in this series. Books 7 and 8 in the series to be released in 2016 and 2017.)

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