By Antony John
Available now from Dial (Penguin)
Thomas lives on an island of fifteen people. Everyone has a power, known as an element, aside from Thomas. Then the Guardians are kidnapped during a sudden storm, leaving Thomas and the other kids to escape the pirates on their own. As they struggle to keep themselves safe, they begin to discover all the secrets the adults kept.
It took me awhile to figure out ELEMENTAL was set in the future, despite that being mentioned in the very first line printed on the back of my ARC. Clearly I didn't read what the book was about before diving in. I enjoyed trying to piece together what happened to the world, curious about the plague that left behind only a few people who had magical powers.
Some of ELEMENTAL was pretty predictable. Obviously Thomas actually does have a special ability. (I'll admit to not entirely understanding how his ability worked, but that might be because Thomas didn't entirely get it himself.) I found the love triangle tolerable, mostly because both Alice and Rose are sixteen too, and their only other romantic option is Thomas's older brother who is also a bit of an outcast because he predicts people's deaths. There just aren't enough available guys to prevent the love triangle. It's also pretty low key. The kids' focus is on getting their families back and getting away from the pirates, not making out. Rose and Alice's competition just provides a bit of tension within the group.
I thought ELEMENTAL was a standalone fantasy, so I was a bit disappointed by the obvious lead in to a sequel at the end. ELEMENTAL does contain a complete adventure, but many of the big questions remain unanswered at the end of the book. That's fine if there are going to be more books, but it wasn't what I expected when I started.
I found ELEMENTAL mildly diverting, but I was never absorbed into the world Antony John has created. It was fun enough, but I'm not driven to read the possible sequel to get answers and see what Thomas and the others do now that they know more about their world. I think the novel just felt kind of shallow. There was no spark that made me love these characters or this world.