Star-crossed love, supernatural evil, and martial arts meet at the abandoned tracks in the deceptively quaint village of Middleburg . . .
When Ignacio Torrez moved from the rough streets of Los Angeles to a small town dead smack in the middle of nowhere, he never expected to find himself in the midst of a gang war. But, he soon learns, these are no ordinary gangs. The wealthy, preppie Toppers on one side of the tracks and the working-class Flatliners on the other adhere to a strict code of honor and use their deadly martial arts skills, taught to them by the wise Master Chin, to battle one another for pride, territory, and survival. When Raphael, leader of the Flatliners, falls for Aimee, a Topper girl, the rival gangs prepare for a bloody, all-out war. The only hope for peace between them lies within the dark territory of the abandoned train tunnels where the tracks cross. Under the direction of the mysterious and frightening Magician, the awesome power within the crossing sends the rivals on a terrifying mystical quest to fight the malevolent force that threatens the existence of Middleburg — and quite possibly, the world.
Wow and WOW! It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel that has incorporated so many new and different elements without overwhelming me, but Dark Territory brings that and more. It has the paranormal, the supernatural, martial arts, time-travel, romance and plenty of action. I was hooked from beginning to end, and was thoroughly entertained by the story and the characters. Since this book had so much going on, I’m going to do this review a little differently and organize my thoughts with headings.
What I LOVE!
The characters in this novel really took over and drove the story forward. I adored the two leaders of the gangs, Raphael (leader of the Flatliners) and Zhai (leader of the Toppers). While they are different in manner and style, both boys were strongly committed to their families, friends, and the art of Kung-Fu. I found Zhai very down to earth and he tolerates little non-sense. He had a very regal air about him, and I loved his great sense of honor and nobility. Raphael was very passionate in everything he did, and seems to be an all or nothing kind of guy. His concern for his mother, and the loyalty he shows towards his friends earned my respect and admiration. And although Raphael is a bit rough around the edges, to me he still managed to maintain a youthful innocence about himself.
Aimee Banfield, Raph’s love interest and the little sister of his biggest enemy Rick Banfield, didn’t really stand out to me. I liked that her attitude towards people who didn’t necessarily have all that she does changed after she had been sent away for a spell, but other than that there is nothing truly remarkable about her. Now the female characters that did leave an impression on me were Dalton and Kate. Dalton seemed to be the lone wise and reasonable voice among the throng of teenagers, and Kate was so sweet and mysterious that I can’t help but want to know more about her.
The action in Dark Territory was nothing short of exhilarating. I can’t recall reading a Young Adult novel that has incorporated Kung Fu before, but I thought it’s inclusion was brilliant. Both Raphael and Zhai have been trained in the art of Kung-Fu by Master Chin. So you can imagine when these former best-friends face off it’s mesmerizing as neither are willing to give in an inch. I felt like I was on a dangerous roller coaster ride, and while it could be down right terrifying at times, it was also exciting and had my heart racing with each fight, and each battle.
The story itself has so many things at play that you can only wonder how everything relates to each other, and how everything will reveal itself and how the story will unfold. The Legend of the Tracks is a living, breathing entity in the novel, and it eventually begins to awaken and consume the characters. Middleburg and how it’s divided between the haves and the have-nots is very clearly laid out for the reader, so it’s easy to picture. In that respect the world building is great, but the parallel worlds that exist in this book could have been more detailed and better explained.
What I Question?
Raphael’s and Aimee’s romance is cute and sweet. In the vein of Rome Juliet, their love is also a little dangerous considering they are from opposite sides of the tracks and her older brother hates Rapheal with a passion unparalleled. But I question Raphael’s level of dedication to a girl who he’s spent all of two minutes with. I get that they have an undeniable spark of attraction, but during the course of the book they really don’t spend much quality time together. So how he could feel so strongly about someone he really hardly knows at all is a concern.
Also, there is a point in the book where Rick Banfield handcuffs Raphael to an old train car and sets it on fire, trying to burn him alive. The fact that NOBODY AT ALL seems outraged or appalled that this boy literally tried to MURDER Raphael is beyond my comprehension. Everyone who finds out pretty much shrugs it off and feels like, yeah that sounds like something Rick would do. The hell!? I don’t care that he is privileged and a Topper, there should have been some consequences or AT LEAST someone in the book who was just as shocked and furious about it as I was.
Lastly, after Raphael and Zhai go on their mutual and individual quests, I was hoping all they had to go through and endure would be explained. The other world, the manipulation of time, even the quests they had to complete is never explained. I want to know how and why the other world exists? What is the other world and what goes on there? What are the customs, the traditions, and the people like? And how does it all relate to the tunnel and tracks, what’s going on in Middleburg today, and how does it dictate all that is to come for the two gang leaders? Since nothing is really explained, the reader is left with more questions than when they started. I can only hope many of these will be answered in the follow up book Ghost Crown.
As a whole I LOVED Dark Territory and I want MORE!!!! The action and the characters came together beautifully and the story was written so well that it seemed to leap off the pages. If you’re looking for a book that encompasses romance, the supernatural, and action, and is executed well, this is the book for you. I look forward to reading the sequel and joining these amazing characters for another adventure.
Books in this Series:
This book was reviewed as a part of The Tracks Series blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. If you would like to view the entire Book Tour schedule and follow the rest of the stops, please find it HERE!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and HCI Teen, I have one paperback copy of Dark Territory and one paperback copy of Ghost Crown to giveaway! They will be given away as a set so there will be only ONE winner.
– U.S. Mailing addresses only. No P.O. Boxes Please.
– Entrants must be 13 years or older.
The giveaway will run from Monday, July 30th through Thursday August 9th. Winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.
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Filed in: Giveaway, Reviews, Supernatural, Young Adult Tags: Charlene Keel, Giveaway, J. Gabriel Gates, Mystery, Paranormal, Review, Romance, Young Adult