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Betwixt    by Tara Bray Smith Amazon.com order for
Betwixt
by Tara Bray Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2007 (2007)
Hardcover
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Betwixt is Tara Bray Smith's debut young adult dark fantasy. In it, she tells a complicated story of a fay world, filled with changelings, scions, ringers, and cutters - who also inhabit the real world.

Ondine Mason always knew there was something different about her. Mainly it stems from her intense, violet eyes that no one else in her family possesses. She also has a deep passion for art art which seems to come alive before her. On the night her parents and younger brother leave Portland for a year-long sabbatical in Chicago, Ondine and her best friend Morgan decide to have a party. Like a typical high school party where no adults are present, more guests show up than were invited, including two known dust dealers. At the party, Ondine meets Nix, a homeless runaway from Alaska who also has a secret.

One of the dealers, Moth, invites Ondine, Nix, and Morgan to a rave in the middle of the forest on Solstice. After Moth saves Ondine's party from being busted up by the cops and mysteriously cleans her house, she feels compelled to attend. While waiting for the Solstice, Nix moves in with Ondine and the two develop a psychic connection. At the rave, the threesome learn that they are actually fay changelings and that Moth is to be their guide. However, something sinster begins brewing as Bleek, the other dust dealer, lays claim to Morgan's brother's girlfriend Neve, turning her into a dust fiend. Together, the changelings must learn how to harness their power to save Neve and themselves, and Ondine learns that she is special in a way she could never imagine.

Betwixt starts off very strongly and the pages seem to fly by as we quickly get immersed in Ondine's, Nix's, and Morgan's lives. This pace keeps up through the whole novel, but the story starts to break down a little once the three learn they are changelings. After that, some parts of the fay world become confusing, especially terminology that is used over and over and never explained, and even, for many fantasy fans, the spelling of the world fay. The most confusing thing, however - and it hurts the story since it is the whole basis for the climax - is what really makes Ondine different from changelings born through a more natural origin, and exactly what Bleek plans to do to create a changeling like Ondine. This baffling climax leaves for an unfulfilling ending that seems very contrived and not well explained.

Fans of darker fantasies will enjoy the mood that Tara Bray Smith creates in Betwixt. All the characters elicit strong feelings, which help readers get involved in the story. The very fast pacing also keeps readers engaged, even through the confusing last half of the book.

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