Jack Swift thought he was a relatively normal teenage boy getting ready for soccer tryouts. He is a little different, since he needed heart surgery when he was born, and must take medicine for it every morning. Otherwise, he is an average teenaged boy–that is, until he accidentally uses magic he didn’t know he had on a boy during soccer tryouts and nearly kills him. Soon, his life gets quite a bit more complicated, starting with finding out from his Aunt Lynda that he is not average at all. In fact, Jake has a warrior stone, making him a Weir, a member of a group with magical powers. The Wizards, head group of the Weirs, are looking for Warriors to fight in their traditional battles between the Red Roses and the White Roses. The winner of these duels decides who controls the rest of the Weirs. The only problem is, the duels are to the death, and it doesn’t particularly matter Jake wants to participate or not.
I liked this story very much. I thought it was going to be high fantasy, and I liked that it had the historical and magical aspects of a high fantasy but was set in present day. I’m not sure that makes sense, so let me try to be more clear: I liked that they were cloak wearing wizards and warriors who taught their warriors how to sword fight and had duels to decide who controlled their society. Jake practices for these duels after soccer practice. They are ruled by a magical pact made in the 1500’s. Jake was thrown into this world based on his bloodline, but even in a world of magic he is special. He is born a wizard, but lacks the all-important wizard stone behind his heart. So, a White Rose wizard/heart-surgeon implants a warrior stone behind his heart, hoping he will be champion of the White Rose and fight on their side in the tournament so they can gain control of the Weir society. The whole story was an interesting mix of new and old ideas.
I loved the characters in this story. Everyone had a backstory and clear reasons for acting the way they did, even the “less important” side characters like Jake’s mother Becka and his best friends Will and Fitch. Everyone’s stories intertwined and came together at the end. There wasn’t anyone whose presence you wondered about, or you forgot who they were. I really liked that, as I have read some books lately where characters would show up and/or disappear for no reason. The downside of this story was that it was very predictable. I knew who was going to betray who, who was hiding things, who the mysterious “other warrior” would turn out to be, even the way things worked out in the end. I didn’t mind too much though, because I was emotionally invested in the characters, and I was so happy there wasn’t any typical annoying teenage angst-y drama. I’m not sure I want to read the next book, since I liked these characters so much and they aren’t in the next book I don’t think. But this book was still a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it immensely. I recommend it to anyone who likes a present day novel with a magical, historical twist.