Genre: Paranormal Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Source: Own the ebook on my Kindle.
Synopsis: Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.
Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.
With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.
I had been looking forward to reading this book for a while now, but when I finally downloaded the book and decided to read it, it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped it would be. Rachel Hawkins has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read the ‘Hex Hall’ series, and so I had pretty high expectations for this book. I was looking forward to a hot male lead with the whole mysterious thing going on, a plot that involved the male and female MC’s to work together to save either themselves or their home, and some swoon-worthy romantic scenes even though David and Harper aren’t supposed to admit they have chemistry. I didn’t really get any of these things until the very end of the book.
Neither Harper or David were ideal characters. Though Harper was beautiful, kind, and mourning the death of her sister, she often seemed to care more about keeping her life perfect than keeping David alive. I can understand not wanting to sacrifice everything you’ve ever had – your friends, family, education, goals, etc. – in order to protect a boy you don’t even particularly like, but Harper came off as really whiny to me. Even though she was told time and time again that she was a Paladin, and that whether or not she wanted the responsibility, she would have it; she’d have to keep looking out for David until the day she dies. Yes, that’s a terrible future, but can you just accept it already and help David instead of trying to fix your relationship with a boy you don’t even have sparks with?! And then there’d David. Before I started the book, I thought David would be more like Archer from ‘Hex Hall’ (if you read the book, you know how delicious that would have been). But what I ended up getting was…David Stark. A nerd, a journalist, and an oracle with no fashion sense. It’s not that I didn’t like him: he was kind, and his arguments with Harper all revolved around a crush he had on her. I suppose it was just the surprise of not getting what I wanted that prevented him from becoming one of my book boyfriends *shrug*.
The romance and the plot were not really my type of thing. I think the novel just wasn’t intense enough for me. So like I mentioned briefly before, Harper is dating Ryan, who she apparently loves. Actually, they love each other, as in yes, they said to each other. And yet at the same time Harper is developing a crush on David, and Ryan on Mary Beth? How can two people love each other and yet never spend time with each other and have crushes on other people? I just don’t get it. And the David being an oracle thing? It bothered me at first that there was a male oracle, but I guess by now I’ve grown used to it. It’s just that neither Harper nor David seemed to really take the Paladin, Oracle, and Mage thing seriously. Like people, your lives are at stake, please stop worrying about everything else. On the bright side, certain things happen at the end of the novel – including a not-so-nice cliffhanger *mumbles* – which give me hope for David, Harper, and even Ryan! Also, it’s quite possible that the next book in the series will be more intense since, well, David is more intense, but I’ll just have to keep hoping.
Yeah, the ending definitely changed my perspective on this book, mostly because of the potential it makes room for in the second book. To summarize what I said before, by the end of ‘Rebel Belle’, David got cooler, Harper matured into a girl I’d love to read about, and the cliffhanger at the end was completely unexpected (mostly because I didn’t realize this was a series). I’m not really sure how to describe this book, so to use Rachel’s words, “it’s like Legally Blonde meets The Terminator.” I’d recommend it for fans of mythology, and people who just like to try something new.
Excerpt – Chapter 2
Okay. Okay, I can handle this, I thought, even as panic started clawing through my chest.
“Mr. Hall,” I started, my voice high and shaky.
He just waved his hand at me and pressed his ear to the door. I don’t know what he heard, but whatever it was made him turn and sag against the wall.
And that’s when I noticed the blood dripping on his shoes.
“Mr. Hall!” I cried, running toward him. My heels slid on the slick tile floor, so I kicked them off. I got to Mr. Hall just as he slumped to the ground.
His face was pale, and it looked all weird and waxy, like he was a dummy instead of a person. I could see beads of sweat on his forehead and under his nose. His breath was coming out in short gasps, and there was a dark red stain spreading across his expansive belly. There was no doubt in my mind that he was dying.
I knelt down next to him, my blood rushing loudly in my ears. “It’s gonna be okay, Mr. Hall, I’ll go get someone, everything is gonna be fine.”
But just as I reached for the deadbolt, he reached out and grabbed my ankle, pulling me down so hard that I landed on my butt with a shriek.
Mr. Hall was shaking his head frantically.
“Don’t,” he gurgled. Then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose, like he was trying to calm down. “Don’t,” he said again, and this time, his voice was a little stronger. “Don’t open that door, okay. Just . . . just help me get to my feet.”
I looked down at him. Mr. Hall was pretty substantial, and I didn’t think there was any way I was lifting him off that floor. But somehow, by slipping my arms under his and bracing myself against the wall, I got him up and propped against the door of one of the bathroom stalls.
Once he was up, I said, “Look, Mr. Hall, I really think I should get help. I don’t even have a cell phone with me, and you”—I looked down at the sticky red circle on his stomach—“you look really hurt, and I think we should call 911, and—”
But he wasn’t listening to me. Instead, he opened his shirt.
I braced myself for a wound on his stomach, but I wasn’t prepared to see what looked like a bloodstained pillow.
With a grunt, Mr. Hall tugged at something on his back, and the pillow slid from his stomach to land soundlessly on the floor.
Now I could see the gash, and it was just as bad as I’d thought it would be, but my brain was still reeling from the whole “Mr. Hall isn’t fat, he just wears a fake belly” thing. Why would Mr. Hall pretend to be fat? Was it a disguise? Why would a janitor need a disguise?
But before I could ask him any of this, Mr. Hall groaned and slid to the floor again, his eyes fluttering closed.
I sank with him, my arm still behind his back. “Mr. Hall!” I cried. When he didn’t respond, I reached out with my free hand and slapped his cheek with enough force to make his head rock to the side. He opened his eyes, but it was like he couldn’t see me.
“Mr. Hall, what is going on?” I asked, the acoustics of the bathroom turning my question into an echoing shriek.
I was shaking, and suddenly realized how cold I was. I remembered from Anatomy and Physiology that this was what going into shock felt like, and I had to fight against the blackness that was creeping over my eyes. I couldn’t faint. I wouldn’t faint.
Mr. Hall turned his head and looked at me, then really looked at me. Blood was still pulsing out of the gash that curved from under his khaki slacks around to his navel, but not as much now. Most of it seemed to be in a big puddle under him.
“What . . . what’s . . . your name?” he asked in a series of soft gasps.
“Harper,” I answered, tears pooling in my eyes, and bile rushing up my throat. “Harper Price.”
He nodded and smiled a little. I’d never really looked at Mr. Hall before. He was younger than I’d thought he was, and his eyes were dark brown. They were beautiful, actually.
“Harper Price. You . . . run this place. Kids talk. Protect . . .”
Mr. Hall trailed off and his eyes closed. I slapped him again, and his eyes sprang open. He smiled that weird little smile again.
“You’re a tough one,” he murmured.
“Mr. Hall, please,” I said, shifting to get my arm free. “What happened to you? Why can’t we open the door?”
“Look after him, okay?” he said, his eyes looking glazed again. “Make sure he’s . . . he’s safe.”
“Who?” I asked, but I wasn’t even sure he was actually talking to me. I’ve heard that when people are dying, their brains fire off all sorts of weird things. He could have been talking to his mom, or his wife, if he had one.
Suddenly there was a loud rattle at the door. I gave a thin scream, and Mr. Hall grabbed at the stall door like he was trying to pull himself up.
“He’s coming,” Mr. Hall gasped.
“Who?” I yelled. I felt like I had stepped into a nightmare. Five minutes ago my main concern had been whether Salmon Fantasy would clash with my pink dress. Now I was cradling a dying man on the bathroom floor while some crazy person pounded on the door.
Mr. Hall managed to get himself into a sitting position, and for one second, I thought we might actually be okay. Like, maybe the wound that had soaked through that pillow wasn’t so bad. Or maybe this whole thing was an elaborate prank.
But Mr. Hall wasn’t going to be okay. There was a white line all around his lips, which were starting to look blue, and his breaths were getting shallower and shorter.
He swung his head to look at me, and there was such sadness in his eyes that the tears finally spilled over my cheeks. “I’m so sorry for this, Harper,” he said, his voice the strongest it had sounded since he’d run into the bathroom.
I thought he meant he was sorry for dying and leaving me at the mercy of whatever was on the other side of that door.
But then he took a really deep breath, lurched forward, grabbed my face, and covered my lips with his.
My hands reached up to pry his fingers from my cheeks, but for a guy who had barely been able to talk a few seconds ago, his grip was surprisingly strong. And it hurt.
I was making these muffled shrieks because I was afraid to open my mouth to scream.
Then I felt something cold—so cold that it brought even more tears to my eyes—flow into my mouth and down my throat, and I went very still.
He wasn’t trying to kiss me; it was like he was blowing something into me, this icy air that made my lungs sting like jogging in January.
Tears were streaming down my face, and I let go of his hands, my arms falling to my sides. By now, my chest was burning like I’d been underwater for too long, and that gray fog was hovering around the edge of my vision again. As the gray spread, I thought of my sister, Leigh-Anne, and how hard it was going to be on my parents if I died, too.
I don’t know if it was that thought, or the fact that being found dead in the bathroom underneath a janitor was not how I wanted people at the Grove to remember me, but suddenly I felt this surge of strength. The gray disappeared as adrenaline shot through my system, and I wrapped my fingers around Mr. Hall’s wrists and yanked with everything I had.
And just like that, he was off of me.
I took a deep breath. Never had I felt so happy to breathe in slightly stinky bathroom air.
For a long time, I just sat there against the stall door, shaking and gasping. I could still hear whatever was on the other side rattling, but it seemed far away for some reason, like it wasn’t even connected to me.
I guess it only took about thirty seconds for me to catch my breath, but it felt like forever. I looked down at Mr. Hall. Lying on his back, his eyes staring at nothing, it was pretty clear that he was dead.
Just as I was taking that in, the rattling at the door stopped.
The burn in my chest had faded to a tingle, and there was this jumping feeling inside my stomach, like I’d swallowed a whole bunch of Pop Rocks. My arms and legs felt heavy, and my head was all spinny.
Slowly, I stood up, careful to keep my feet out of the puddle of blood that continued to spread under Mr. Hall. I glanced down at my legs and saw that my panty hose were surprisingly run-free, despite everything that had just happened.
What had just happened?
I forced myself to look at Mr. Hall again. The gash in his stomach was horrible, and big, and sure, it looked like a wound from some sort of medieval sword or something, but that was impossible, right? He probably just hurt himself on some scary janitor equipment. I mean, the floor waxer didn’t look like it could slice somebody open, but it’s not like I’d ever inspected it for danger.
The more I thought about it, the more comforting the idea seemed. It was certainly better than thinking there was a swordwielding maniac on the other side of the door.
It had just been a rogue piece of machinery. A blade or a belt or something had snapped and cut Mr. Hall open, and that had been the rattling at the door. He hadn’t had time to unplug it, and it was probably spinning down the hall right now. I’d get out of here, and I’d go find a teacher and tell him or her, and everything would be fine.
I looked at myself in the mirror. My skin was almost as white as Mr. Hall’s, making the Salmon Fantasy look cheap and too bright.
“It’s going to be fine,” I told my reflection. “Everything is fine.”
I walked to the door, and as I did, I had to step over that weird pillow thing Mr. Hall had strapped to his body.
Oh, right. That.
Why did Mr. Hall have a fake belly? My brain felt like it was in a blender as I tried to think up a plausible explanation, hopefully one that would tie in with my possessed machinery idea.
Okay, Mr. Hall was younger than I’d thought. And cuter. Why would he be wearing a disguise? Was he in the witness protection program? A deadbeat dad hiding out from paying child support?
And there was something else. Something weird about him.
I looked back at his body, bracing myself against throwing up or fainting, but I didn’t feel anything except that tingle in my chest.
It was something about his face, something that had just felt odd when he’d . . . kissed me? Blown on me? Whatever.
I crept back to him, still careful about the blood, then I reached down and touched his beard. My dad and granddad both have beards, and neither of theirs felt like this one.
Sliding my finger around the edge of his beard, just under his left ear, I saw why.
It was a fake. It was a pretty good one, and it was glued on super tight, but it was still a fake.
Then I glanced up at his balding head and saw a fine stubble covering the bare half-moon of his scalp.
So Mr. Hall hadn’t been fat, or bearded, or balding.
“Oh, this is some bullshit,” I whispered. That’s when I knew I was seriously freaked out. I never curse out loud, not even in private. It’s just not ladylike.
There was no theory I could come up with to explain any of that, no matter how CSI: Pine Grove I was trying to be. No, the best thing to do was to get the heck out of the bathroom and find a teacher, or a cop, or an exorcist. I’d take anyone at this point.
I hurried to the door before realizing I’d left Bee’s lip gloss in the sink. My brain was still scrambled, and despite the dead body at my feet, all I could think was that Bee loved that ugly stuff, and I had to grab it before it was, like, confiscated for evidence or something. So I ran back to the sink.
It’s funny to think about now, because even though that lip gloss had gotten me into this whole mess, that same lip gloss totally saved my life. If I hadn’t gone back for it, I would have been at the door when it exploded into two pieces and slammed into the row of stalls with the force of a small bomb.
And if that hadn’t flattened me like a pancake, I still would have been directly in the path of the man who came running in with a long, curved blade—a scimitar, I was pretty sure I remembered from World History II with Dr. DuPont—held out in front of him.
So thanks to Bee’s lip gloss, I was standing frozen by the sink when the sword-wielding maniac came in and my life stopped making even the littlest bit of sense.