When I was twelve, my mother disappeared. I was the first person to never find her.
I’m sixteen now and she has never been found, alive or dead.
I’m not the girl I should have been.
When Charlotte Stevens, bright but failing, is sent to stay at her mother’s childhood home in Somerset England her life is changed forever. While exploring the lavish family manor, Gaersum Aern, Charlotte discovers a stone puzzle box that contains a pentagram necklace and a note from her mother—clues to her family’s strange past and her mother’s disappearance. Charlotte must try to solve the puzzle box, decipher her mother’s old journals, and figure out who is working to derail her efforts—and why. The family manor contains many secrets and hidden histories, keys to the elegant mystery Charlotte called mom and hopefully, a trail to finding her.
Charlotte Stephens is an orphan. Sort of. Her mother’s been missing since she was twelve, and because her father, Simon Stevens, is a best-selling author 17 times over, Elizabeth’s disappearance was a tabloid-worthy mystery. Four years later, Charlotte plagiarizes a final paper on Richard II, a play she’s read four times, because she just doesn’t care. This sets into motion a chain of events a teenager wouldn’t anticipate. Her principal notifies Charlotte’s emergency contact, her father’s literary agent, that Simon has shown up to a disciplinary meeting sloppy drunk. Twenty-four hours later, Charlotte is on plane for England to stay with an uncle she’s never met while her father dries out at a detox facility.
There, Charlotte is met at the airport by Gaersum Aern’s caretaker’s children. Caleb is seventeen, and she vaguely recalls him as the boy she kissed behind the dining room curtains when she was seven. Along for the ride is fifteen-year-old, Sophie, a “material girl” who’s recently gotten the pair’s Internet privileges revoked.
Caleb is still in love with Charlotte nine years later, an infatuation that she reciprocates easily once they reconnect in Gaersum Aern’s library. Unfortunately for him, another boy has his sights set on Charlotte. Hayden Wriothesley is sixteen and a second cousin of the king of England. He’s filthy rich, absurdly gorgeous, and very accustomed to getting everything he wants from everyone. He’s arrogant and chauvinistic, and Charlotte despises him. Here she is torn in three directions. Her heart wants Caleb. Her mind wants to figure out her mother’s mysteries. And, her body responds to Hayden’s advances, making it very hard to say no when she should.
I suppose now is a good time to mention that’s she’s stumbled ass-over-teakettle into a conflict between orders of Freemasons. By the time she realizes the role she plays, it’s far too late to turn tail and run.
Ascendant is a wonderful YA paranormal tale set in the tapestry of rural England, among old wealth estates, and includes ancient symbols, secret societies. It is driven by naiveté and teen angst on the surface, ancient tradition beneath, and between the two, the consequences of one family’s choice to save face at the expense of an illegitimate child ripple across decades, leaving tragedy in their wake.
Ascendant would fit at home on a shelf with Rebecca Hamilton’s The Forever Girl series, Rebecca Trogner’s The Last Keeper’s Daughter. There are some sexual situations, including kissing and partial nudity. I would recommend it readers over the age of 13 who are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and/or the YA Paranormal Romance.
I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.