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SHADOWBOXER by TRICIA SULLIVAN

PB, 302 pages, Ravenstone

Buy Shadowboxer on Amazon – currently 99p on Kindle!

Jade Berrera is a seventeen-year-old MMA fighter, on the brink of turning pro, if only she can control her temper and sort out her messy life. But an altercation with a celebrity outside the gym she trains at leads to Jade getting sent to Thailand to sort her head out, and it’s there everything changes. She’s dragged into a world of mythology, old gods and the undead as a conspiracy twists around her…

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This is an unusual YA novel, blending grinding fight action and the harsh life and attitude of cat-loving New Yorker Jade with the mystery of the Thai forest that straddles many worlds, where gods walk in the form of lions and snakes, and broken children’s souls are imprisoned. The idea of a wood between the worlds is not a new one, but the juxtaposition with Jade’s life, the visceral scenes in the ring, the streets of New York and the internal politics of the gym where she trains, is striking. Jade herself comes across initially as unlikable, all mouth and ‘tude, but it becomes clear pretty fast that she’s fighting not only her opponents, but a messy set of family circumstances. And anyone who would break a Hollywood martial arts stars nose over his cruelty to a stray cat immediately has my vote.

I felt a little more could have been made of the villain of the piece, Richard Fuller, a man bent on stealing children’s souls to gain immortality. I felt there was more to him – his web of connections, his scheming – that could have been revealed, and I would have liked him to be more fleshed out as he was an intriguing character, a chemist-gone-bad.

But Jade is the star of the show, smart and sassy with a deep core of vulnerability that warms the readers heart, and she takes us on a fun ride. Shadowboxer is well worth reading, so grab a ringside seat and hang on tight!

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