Banish is an unusual YA paranormal thriller from the mind of an adult romance queen. Two contrasting ingredients which primarily sound bad if you mix them together, however, the product isn’t as bad as what you at first suspect.
At first I couldn’t help but worry about what genre Banish fell into as the opening 30 pages was centred on a developing teenage romance between our central character, Alyssa Wood and jazz lover Ronan. This made me feel disconnected towards the story and it came as no surprise to discover that author Nicola Marsh wrote romance fiction in the past. Yet I decided to continue reading Banish as the blurb plot did hold potential. I’m glad I did as about half way through the book I became hooked to this YA thriller.
Seventeen year old Alyssa has been living in tragedy after her boyfriend committed suicide the day after she dumped him. To boil more problems into the cauldron, her mother has succumbed to alcohol over the past few years to drown out the voices that she hears in her head. To escape from this gloomy world of Broadwater, Alyssa moves in with her aunt in New York City. Although she does have to make a compromise in the crazy department as her aunt is a Wicca High Priestess.
Despite this one issue, everything seems to be going well for Alyssa over the next six months. She is becoming cosy with Ronan, she has found a friend in new school student Seth and her aunt has stopped pestering her about joining the Wicca religion. In fact, it is so perfectly that it is boring for us readers as we strive for the equilibrium to be thrown into chaos. Luckily we cheer when the supernatural hunt begins when it comes attached to a video from her boyfriend. After the jazz musician finishes performing his piece in dedication to Alyssa on the video, the segment continues to reveal a dead females corpse oozing with blood.
More terrifying occurrences start to transpire within Alyssa’s life making our protagonist begin to question the people who she is close to. Is her Wicca obsessed aunt taunting Alyssa with these tricks to make her believe in the faith? Has wiz IT kid Ronan pulled the worst boyfriend joke of all time? Or is her ex-boyfriend Noah trying to communicate with her from beyond the grave?
What I loved about this book was the character of Alyssa. Since she was someone who had been thrown into a lifestyle right from her birth, it meant that you could easily sympathise with the actions she was forced to take in the present. This characterisation was extremely realistic and it was fantastic to see a female who was not made out to be a heroine, instead a femme that was not afraid to take care of herself.
One of the biggest problems for me was that the book ended too soon. So many different elements had been targeted within this novel meaning that when it came to the end it was all completed in a big rush. When it was revealed what the predictable twist was I was hoping that this must be a red-herring and there would be one final true twist. This wasn’t the case.
I must admit that Banish is refreshing in showcasing magic as something in the background, rather than making the book solely about this paranormal element. It was good to finally read a piece of fiction where magic was made out as something more normal. This was aided by the fact that Marsh focused on the idea of the Wicca religion. Again, this is an element of the supernatural which is absent from most YA texts so it was exciting to hear a unique angle on the subject for a change.
I hope that there will be a follow up to Banish. One door has been closed on Alyssa’s past life, however, there is still a lot of opportunity to be explored with Alyssa in the present. Also, half of the book would have been a waste of time if there is not going to be a second edition. It would be like Harry Potter finding out he is a wizard and not bothering to go to Hogwarts and instead resorting to live in his cupboard with the Dursleys.