Manhattan “Hat” Walker’s life is pretty ordinary. The only thing that keeps it interesting is his huge, loud, raucous family, who he can always count on to have his back. But when Hat’s mother suddenly dies, his entire world turns upside down. In addition to experiencing frightening visions of the past, he receives a strange book and a necklace with mysterious powers. These events lead to a life-altering revelation: Hat is a Caster, a family secret kept buried for years. Betrayed and confused, Hat is lost in a maze of emotions and no longer knows whom he can trust. But an unknown Caster with evil intentions has his eyes on Hat’s necklace, and if it falls into the wrong hands, it could spell disaster for the world. Now Hat must master his powers with the help of his new Caster friends to save the world and protect the ones he loves.
Everyman hero? Check. Sudden death of a parent? Check. Objects of awesome power? Check. SECRETS THE WALKERS KEEP, the first in a new series by J. Morgan Michaels, contains all the basic elements of a New Adult/fantasy novel. There’s not much new ground covered. Most of what has been written here has been done before and will likely be done again. What saves this book from falling into banality is the strength of Michaels’ writing, which is highly descriptive, winsome, and engaging. The pace of the book starts slowly, but builds step by step to the action-packed conclusion. There is a considerable number of typing errors, but they manage not to disrupt things too much.
As far as characterization, Hat begins as something of a wishy-washy protagonist, but eventually rises the occasion to do what must be done. The obstacles in his path lie, not only in the challenges of his powers and family secrets, but also in grappling with his sexual identity, which the book handles with sensitivity and grace. Hat’s crazy family is colorfully presented and pops off the pages with incredible brightness. There is also a strong appeal of the Casters’ glamorous hidden world of endless partying and carousing, and Hat’s new friends are well-crafted mentors who help him navigate this brave new world.
Despite its been-there-done-that plot, SECRETS THE WALKERS KEEP is elevated by the strength of J. Morgan Michaels’ highly descriptive, winsome, and engaging writing, making the book a fun and worthwhile read.
~Heather McNamara for IndieReader