Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brandon Gray's "ORISON"

Book Nook Review of 
by Brandon Gray

Orison, Brandon Gray’s YA sci-fi fantasy, was an award-winning book coming out of the gate. Gray submitted his unique tale of colliding human and dryad worlds through Amazon’s grueling Kindle Scout platform where it was selected for publication. And for good reason. Good fantasy requires intricate world-building, and Gray weaves a complex story line through the fascinating world he creates where humans and dryads interact, fall in love, and yes . . . have fits of jealousy and rage.

The King family grew wealthy when their plantation’s harvests far exceeded their neighbors’. But something happened to end the mutually beneficial arrangement between the Kings and their dryad neighbors, sending a curse upon the land and into the family.

The current heir to the King land is Branson, a self-centered, irresponsible party-boy whose past is riddled with sorrow and sin.  His most recent binge leads to an accident that destroys the tree housing a powerful dryad spirit. Tradition now requires Aurianna, the shunned granddaughter, to make an oath to avenge her grandmother’s murder by killing Branson. But before she knows who the killer is, Aurianna finds wounded Branson and tends to him, creating an inner conflict that threatens to destroy her world and his.

A powerful attraction draws Branson and Aurianna to one another, and down a destructive path for both, but there is one voice Branson listens to above his own libido--that of Abraham--the aged family friend/handyman whose own life and land seem mysteriously blessed. Abraham understands both worlds, and he opens Aurianna's and Branson's understanding of the forces at work in their lives, understanding that helps them to see the choices before them, and to accept the consequences of those decisions.

Brandon Gray delivers a powerful story while raising thought-provoking questions that challenge main character Branson’s do-what-you-want choices and values. The topics are hard-hitting at times, and though Gray handles them with respect and care, this is not an MG read.

For this reason, Brandon Gray, aka Braden Bell, wrote Orison, his first YA novel, under a pen name to make that distinction with his faithful readers. The much beloved author of the MG series, Middle School Magic, has been heralded for writing books that reflect and speak to his target audience. It is not by accident or merely good marketing. Bell/Gray—teacher, director, father, PhD—loves young people, and he continues to write books that make them think.

Orison’s measured beginning builds to a page-turning sprint as the dryad and human story lines converge. This reviewer could not foresee the final twists, and was extremely pleased to see that Orison is book one of a series.

I was thoroughly engrossed by this unique, powerful book, and recommend Orison, and all Gray/Bell’s books, to thoughtful readers who love beautiful writing. In fact, Bell’s books are my go-to gifts for my own grandchildren, and Orison’s powerful themes add another volume to his masterful collection.

 If you have middle school-aged youth, get them Bell’s brilliant Middle School Magic series, but Orison will entertain and provoke thought in readers from savvy teens to adults. It's available on Kindle. 

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