Jay is alone. Her parents were taken from her when she was just a child, and now the only family she had left, her Gram, is gone in a violent flash. She’s taken in by her Gram’s best friends; she has only them, her boyfriend Shaun, and her best friend Rena, who is there for her every moment. As the vivid dreams that once plagued her as a child resurface and start to bleed into her real life, and a strange knife with ancient runic symbols on it mysteriously falls into her possession, Jay’s past, and true identity, are slowly revealed to her in a bloody and perilous string of encounters.
The writing and storytelling in Strega are gorgeous, though at some moments it misses the mark of a realistic teen voice. Fluid and descriptive phrasing gives the whole story a lyrical, ethereal feel and makes its imaginative spin on ancient Etruscan mythology and witchcraft come alive. Each chapter is short and tightly written. It alternates between giving the reader tidbits about Jay’s past and unfolding the increasingly terrifying events of the present, making each chapter feel like a quick burst of excitement and moving the story along at a lightning-quick pace. This format also nudges the reader on, making it easy to talk yourself into reading just one more chapter. Thanks to this, I found myself reading the book well into the night, being drawn back to devour another chapter in my every free moment.
As Jay uncovers the truth, each intense scene tingles the spine as you feel the danger creeping closer to her. She is a smart, resourceful character; sometimes she makes a foolish decision or two, but it just makes her more real. Despite a few pacing hiccups toward the end, as a huge amount of backstory comes to light, Strega is an outstanding start to a clever fantasy trilogy and one that I plan to continue reading; the story comes to a thrilling head at the end, and I definitely need to know what happens to these characters next!
Karen Monahan Fernandes