cover image Poison Tree

Poison Tree

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Delacorte, $15.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-73754-8

Atwater-Rhodes (the Den of Shadows series) introduces a fascinating world in which magic and mercenaries are everywhere, largely unbeknownst to the general populace. At the center of the story are two young women with pasts they are trying to leave behind: Sarik, a shape-shifter (think were-tiger), and Alysia, a strong-willed human mercenary with a price on her head. Both have sought refuge in one of Atwater-Rhodes's most interesting creations: SingleEarth, an organization devoted to helping witches, shape-shifters, and vampires coexist with the "normal" human world in secret and in peace. In some ways, this book feels like the first section of a longer volume: exposition about this world's intricacies and players continues well into the final chapters, and characters spend more time learning about things that have already happened than living through the events in real time. However, the action scenes are brilliantly executed, with a speed and brutality that fits the high-powered players. Most importantly, the world Atwater-Rhodes has crafted and the people who live and die there are fascinating, believable, and ready for further adventures. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (July)