Mortal Danger, by Ann Aguirre

I have trouble imagining the pitch for Ann Aguirre's new novel Mortal Danger. ”It's like a supernatural Revenge, but in high school, and the heroine is suicidal... but there's a really hot guy in it! And a makeover scene! But also tons of people die.” The end result melds together better than I expected, but there's no denying that some of those elements work better than others.

After years of bullying at her ritzy prep school, Edie Kramer has decided to commit suicide. Just as she's about to throw herself off a bridge, a beautiful boy named Kian appears and makes her an offer she can't refuse: he will grant her any three favors now, but she will owe his mysterious employers three favors later. Edie rashly accepts, and makes her first wish immediately—she wants to be beautiful, so she can infiltrate the popular crowd at her school and destroy them from the inside. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), Kian's employers are not making this offer out of the goodness of their hearts, and Edie soon discovers that her devil's bargain will come at a terrible cost.

Aguirre gives herself a tough task from the start. She sets out to create an entirely new mythology, while simultaneously keeping readers invested in Edie's revenge plans, her romance with Kian, and her new look and attitude. The revenge plot line and the makeover stuff work well enough, but the supernatural bad guys and the romance are frustrating. Kian appears to be devoted to Edie, but we never get a clear idea of what he sees in her, and none of his noble attempts to protect her seem to do much good. Meanwhile, the “company” he works for (some kind of supernatural agency engaged in an unending chess game using human lives as pieces...?) holds all the cards, which makes their various battles with Edie pretty one-sided: they make a demand, and she's promptly forced to give in. I did my best to sympathize with her, but c'mon—she's supposed to be this huge sci-fi/fantasy nerd, but she enters into a Faustian bargain without hammering out the details first?

That being said, I closed this book with a lot of respect for Aguirre's ambition and creativity. I didn't think all—or even most—of her ideas worked, but her storytelling slid right down, and I was left just curious enough about the next book in the series to hang around a little longer. I'm hoping the sequel will be more coherent (and that Kian's ongoing incompetence is a sign that he's secretly evil!), because right now I worry that the author has bitten off more than she can chew.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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