Verdict: The story is told in the first person—this is definitely Jaden's story—and the combination of action, adventure and romance makes it a great title for YA readers.
Jaden Beckett is a 17 year-old girl whose mom has died. She lives with her dad and older brother, Drew, in Madison, WI. She’s 5’10, a Tae Kwon Do champion and trying her best to deal with her dad’s detachment after his spouse’s passing.
Jaden is at home when she suddenly sees a horde of riders rumbling right toward her. She leaps off her porch to escape and finds herself landing in an alternate world where her mom is a queen, her dad a doctor and Governor—separated from her mom—and her brother a prince.
A teacher named Ralston is dispatched by the Inter-Universal Guidance Agency to return Jaden to her world when the opportunity is right. It seems that in this matriarchal world, Jaden is a princess, next in line for the throne. She has taken the place of the real princess, who may have died flying off a cliff on horseback. This was not anticipated by the IUGA and no one, including Ralston, knows what will happen next.
A Great Disaster 300 years ago killed much of this world’s population and three domes remain in different areas—the Appalacian Mts., where Jaden lands, Peru and Paris. A nefarious Prince Damien wants to marry Jaden for her dowry and her earth persona reemerges as she verbally slams him. He is the ostensible villain. Her best friend Liv is Olivia here, her rival for Ryder’s affections.
Much of the book focuses on Jaden’s trying to adapt to her new situation—learning how to dress, speak, sword fight, ride, and act among other royalty. She is kidnapped by a resident of Unicoi, a tunneled world wracked by uranium poisoning, whose residents are forbidden to live in the protected domes because residents think the disease is contagious.
Jaden’s kidnapper is a 6’5” hunk, Ryder Blackthorn, heir to the throne of the Unicoi people, whose agenda includes forcing the queen to transfer his people onto a virtually unused land near the dome by using Jaden as collateral. Jaden escapes and Ryder is subsequently captured, but she has fallen for him, thinks his cause is just, and, along with Ralston, helps him to escape.
Jaden’s desire to embrace her mother in this new world is hurt by her mother’s refusal to accept the Unicoi. In her old persona she was a compassionate judge—here, she seems heartless. In contrast, her father is more assertive in this alternate world.
There’s a ton of plot, a multitude of characters, lush description of landscape, tables full of exotic food, beautiful wardrobes—all in contrast to the suffering of the Unicoi. The societies the author has imagined are believable because she includes many small touches, like the dances performed by the Unicoi, who have Cherokee blood. There are battles in which Jaden is forced to engage, using her Tae Kwon do skills, yet she shows a strong feminine side, both in her desire for Ryder and her compassion when he is wounded.
The story is told in the first person—this is definitely Jaden’s story—and the combination of action, adventure and romance makes it a great title for YA readers. Towards the end of the book Jaden discovers she really is a Transcender and learns she has the power to move back and forth between worlds. But will this be her destiny? Will she wind up with Ryder and help settle the political turmoil in this alternate world, thus growing more mature? The sequel is coming.
Reviewed by Joe DelPriore for IndieReader
Purchase TRANSCENDER: First-Timer (TRANSCENDER Trilogy) from Amazon