Book Cover

This YA debut sees a teenager
discover that a mythic destiny awaits in her parents’ homeland.

Eighteen-year-old Dorothy Dizon, a Filipino-American,
lives in Las Vegas. She’s her class valedictorian at Valley High, a star
basketball player, and indispensable to her mother, Meredith, who has liver
cancer. Though her father seemingly abandoned the family years ago, Dorothy has
embraced life to the utmost. Tonight she and her statuesque best friend, fellow
Filipina Stella De Guzman, dance at the Tao Nightclub. When a middle-aged man
gropes her, Dorothy uses taekwondo to pin him to the wall. She takes note not
only of the strange craving in her throat, but also of the man’s exposed neck.
The next day at school, Dorothy is dazzled by Adrian Rosario, a new Filipino
exchange student. She has no idea that he’s a Danag—a vampire of Filipino lore
who protects humans—from the Mandalagan area of Negros Island. As they grow
acquainted, Dorothy is impressed by Adrian’s expertise in Filipino history,
including his knowledge of the evil vampire Sitan and his duwende (goblin)
minions. More shocking to Dorothy is that she has been giving off powerful signals,
telling good and evil forces alike that she’s potentially descended from
Urduja, the female warrior who saved Danag culture from the Mongols. For his
fantasy series opener, Ursal provides a banquet of cultural textures about the
Philippines without sacrificing a brisk pace and smooth prose. Adrian seems
like the quintessential bad boy, sporting tattoos and driving a Mustang, yet he’s
a Muslim who prays five times a day and understands that “we surrender time to
Allah in exchange for safety and peace.” The fantasy elements (like Adrian’s
glow) remain low key throughout much of the narrative, playfully recalling
other series like Twilight. The
author also mentions the tragedy of a vanishing culture, for while Adrian
discusses Filipino lore, Dorothy thinks: “It would be a miracle if these
stories would be remembered a hundred years from now.” Action heats up the
finale, as does a love triangle that crudely elbows one protagonist out of the
spotlight.

An engaging fantasy whose romantic
arc will likely divide readers.

kirkusreviews.com

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