Title: Grey (The Romany Outcasts Series, Book 1)
Author: Christi J. Whitney
Genre: Young Adult (Urban Fantasy)
Author: Christi J. Whitney
Genre: Young Adult (Urban Fantasy)
Sebastian Grey always thought he was a fairly normal teenager – good friends, decent grades, and a pretty sweet job in his foster brother’s tattoo shop.
But when strangers arrive in town, Sebastian soon realizes that his world is nothing at all what it seemed. Secretive gypsies surround him, shadowy figures stalk him, and the girl he’s been dreaming about turns up at school.
Now Sebastian must protect this girl at all costs, even if it means he will never be normal again.
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I hear my name, but I can’t answer. I’m trapped by the image in my head.
It flashes again.
Rainbow-scorched leaves. Gypsy music.
Caravans of faded paint.
Dark and nothing.
I struggled for words. ‘Yes, sir?’
Are you joining this group or not? I need to get a list . . . ’
Bonfires. Starless night.
A girl dancing. Ribbons in her hair.
‘For the last time, Mr Grey, wake up!’
My mind ripped free. I jolted, launching papers into orbit. For a split second, I wasn’t convinced of my surroundings. Then, as fluorescent lights bored through my skull, it hit me.
I was in the middle of class.
And twenty-five pairs of eyes were staring straight at me.
All my school supplies littered the floor – textbooks, papers, colored index cards. Everything except the pencil that I’d somehow snapped between my fingers. I coughed and hunkered in my seat. Across the aisle, Avery leaned sideways in his desk, giving me the look I’d seen way too many times: the one that questioned my sanity.
‘Crap,’ I whispered.
I’d done it again.
Mr Weir moved closer. He glowered at me from under spidery eyebrows. I prepared myself for the tirade. But just as he took a wheezing breath, the bell rang. I shrugged and gave him my best smile as the room reverberated with slamming books and screeching chairs.
Mr Weir grunted and waddled back to his desk, my outburst promptly dismissed as more important matters – like the end of the school day – took precedence. I dropped to one knee and recovered my textbook.
‘Hey, Sebastian, you okay?’ Avery towered over me. ‘What just happened there?’
I blinked away the lingering haze. ‘It appears I must have dozed off.’
‘Seriously, man,’ said Avery, his brows shooting up. ‘Who talks like that?’ He knelt and picked up one of my library books, examining it with a shake of his head. ‘I swear, sometimes I think you read way too many old books. They’re messing with your head.’
I snatched it out of his hands. ‘I don’t read old books.’
‘You read Shakespeare.’
Avery laughed, shoving papers at me. ‘Sure it is.’
I stuffed them in my bag, taking care to hide my tattered copy of Hamlet from Avery’s prying eyes. We squeezed into the crowded hall, avoiding locker doors banging open and shut around us.
‘You never answered my question, you know,’ Avery continued.
‘I realize that.’
We strolled in companionable silence down the hallway. Okay, maybe I was the one who was silent. Avery Johnson – senior superlative and social giant – had something to say to everybody we passed. At the end of the corridor, he stopped.
‘Okay, what was it this time?’
‘Nothing,’ I replied. ‘I fell asleep.’
‘Yeah, right,’ Avery said in an amused huff. ‘That wasn’t a nap. That was a complete zone out. Same as this morning in gym, when you stood there like a zombie until Alex Graham smacked you in the face with the ball.’
‘I’m athletically challenged.’
‘Try strange,’ he replied.
‘Can you maybe find another expression to stare at me with? It’s not helping.’
Avery went dramatically serious. ‘Sorry.’
‘Oh, that’s better,’ I replied. ‘I feel much more comfortable now.’ Avery’s features didn’t change. There’d be no avoiding it this time. I worked out my confession. ‘Okay, so you know when you stare at a camera flash and then you keep seeing the glow, even after it’s gone?’
‘Yeah . . . ’
I gripped the strap of my backpack. ‘Well, I keep seeing this same thing in my head, like a camera flash. Only not a light. An image. It used to just happen at night, but now I’m starting to see it during the day.’
‘What exactly do you keep seeing?’
Avery whistled slyly. ‘Must be some dream, eh?’
‘No, it’s not like that.’ My head throbbed. I pinched the bridge of my nose between my fingers. ‘It’s not a dream.’
‘A vision, then,’ said Avery, lighting up like Christmas. ‘You can see the future! Or maybe the past. You know, like that guy on TV. The one that helps the cops solve cases and junk.’
I grinned sideways. ‘If only. ’Cause that would be kind of cool.’
‘And profitable,’ added Avery. ‘We could totally . . . ’
‘Hate to disappoint,’ I said, holding up my hands before he could spout off some money-making scheme that I would – mostly likely – lose cash on. ‘But I don’t have dreams, visions, premonitions, or anything worth printing up business cards for. It’s just an image. I probably saw it in a book somewhere.’
‘Well, whatever it is, when you come out of it, you do this jerking spaz thing.’ He demonstrated for my benefit. ‘Like a bad episode of Sebastian Can’t Dance. Maybe you should ease up on the caffeine.’
‘Oh, you’re hilarious,’ I said, shoving him towards the exit doors. I wasn’t about to tell Avery I’d seen the image every night for two months, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had any decent sleep. I’d reached the limits of sharing. ‘Glad to know I covered all the basics of self-embarrassment. Maybe next time I’ll work up a drool.’
Avery pushed open the set of metal doors, flashing a Cheshire grin as he passed through. ‘Hey, don’t worry too much about it, Sebastian. It’s not like it’s the first time you’ve done something weird.’
Cover comment: I'm glad the cover doesn't have Sebastian and Josephine on it. I would like to see him on the second cover though.
Book source: Netgalley
Grey (The Romany Outcasts Series, #1) by Christi J. Whitney is an intriguing contemporary YA fantasy. Featuring 'mysterious' gypsy groups and their folklore and traditions, I found this aspect of the book gave it a refreshingly uniqueness I don't see too much in other books in this genre. Sebastian is likable in his bewilderment as his normal world begins to slip away while he himself turns stranger and stranger. His adopted older brother Hugo, a tattoo artist who owns his own shop, takes care of him but he keeps mum on the changes Sebastian is going through.
Sebastian has a nice group of friends at school and a cool drama teacher. The story is full bodied, showing his everyday life and snippets of the strange dreams which have been plaguing him over time. When two new students enroll, Sebastian is surprised to see the girl is the same one from his dreams. Descriptive, creating an interesting world of gypsy hierarchy complete with Outcasts and domineering families, Grey kept my interest throughout. There were some spots where I felt there was too much exposition and slowed the pace, but being already invested I continued on trying to figure out what Sebastian was. The reveal wasn't exactly what I thought and that was good. I don't want to spoil the mystery by saying more about Sebastian. I will admit to staying up late to finish his story.
The rich world Whitney created in Grey spotlighted old and supposed 'traditions' clashing with modern sensibilities and advanced weaponry. Interesting questions about the clans not believing in some of their folklore and the loss of parts of their history really grabbed me and gave the conflict a realistic feel. Why worry about antiquated beliefs when one has state of the art crossbows and other weapons? How can people believe in things no one has witnessed or written about? Who's job is it to further the spoken or verbal history of a people? So many questions and points were raised and since I have studied folklore and traditions, I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
Sebastian's clueless situation only made him more endearing. As he searched for the truth and answers to his many questions, he continued to mature while having no choice but to accept his new life, Sebastian managed to awe me even more. He's a regular guy forced into a timeless problem, surrounded by 'family' who have not been forthcoming with the details about his life and existence. Gray's ending scene with him, Hugo and Josephine only made me want to reach for the next book to find out what happens next. The tenderness these characters exhibited was touching. Consider me hooked on The Romany Outcasts Series by Christi J. Whitney. Is book two available soon?
About the Author
Christi J. Whitney is a former high school theatre director with a love for the arts. She lives just outside Atlanta with her husband and two sons. When not spending time with them or taking a ridiculous number of trips to Disney World, she can be found directing plays, making costumes for sci-fi/fantasy conventions, obsessing over Doctor Who, watching superhero movies, or pretending she’s just a tad bit British.
Her latest book is the young adult urban fantasy novel, Grey (The Romany Outcasts Series, Book 1).
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