by H. L. Burke
In Gelia City, magic is music: a constant ever-changing melody known as the Strains. Hereditary ability to use the Strains divides the city into two classes: the wealthy Highmost, who can access the full potential of the Strains, and the Common tradesmen, who are limited to mundane spells, known as beggar magic.
Common teen Leilani rescues and befriends a gifted Highmost girl, Zebedy. The girls’ friendship opens Leilani’s eyes to the world of the Highmost. They become an inseparable team, ready to take on anything with the Strains at their back.
However, beneath the polished, academic facade of the Highmost manors lurks a threat to the Strains. An unknown force consumes their music, leaving only heart-rending silence behind.
“Unlike so many angsty heroines, Leilani deserves and honestly earns her triumph with those rare qualities, common sense and cool nerve in emergencies. She also displays a healthy self-worth that enables her to hold her own against the more privileged, and recognize true worth in others.”
“This was fun and refreshing, but the thing that most endeared this book to me was Brick, the deaf guard. His handicap is written with honesty and love–Leilani is first shy and awkward, then gets to know him, and learns to love him for who he is.”
“Just the right balance of adventure and heart.”
CIR: What inspired this book?
BURKE: I was playing with the concept of how people are so addicted to technology (if the internet is down, nothing gets done), and I wanted to explore a world where magic was like the internet and people were crippled when deprived of it. I also wanted to see this world through the eyes of a more practical person who couldn’t access the magic or access as much of it and contrast how she approached problems with the others in her society.
CIR: What is your writing process like?
BURKE: I write pen and paper most of the time. I don’t outline, but I know the beginning, the end, and a couple of “fun” or “important” scenes that I am looking forward to writing, then I just fill in the blanks as I go. A lot of times I end up making fairly large changes to my original plan as the characters speak to me. The most important thing is the relationships between the characters. Once I discover which relationship is the driving force, the book takes on a life of its own.
CIR: What would you compare this book to?
BURKE: One reader compared it to Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy which is a comparison I’ll fully embrace. My book has a little more blatant romance, however, as my characters are slightly older than hers.
CIR: What is the main character like?
BURKE: Leilani is practical, sarcastic, and a little impatient. I think her character is best summed up in a scene where she and her magic wielding best friend are confronted by a magic-proof “lock.” The friend says, “Oh well, we tried,” and gives up, but Leilani pulls out a hair pin and picks the lock.
CIR: Is there any content that some readers might find questionable despite the overall “clean” feel of the book?
BURKE: I have one character who references his illegitimate birth and calls himself a bastard, and a young couple who fall asleep in each others arms (platonic sleeping) after a hard day being chased by bad guys.