I was a bit nervous when Lisa offered me the opportunity to do a guest post but once I saw that she needed someone to review the Ross Bentley books by Ian Somers I was delighted. O'Brien Press have produced some stunning books for the teen market over the last few years and this series did not disappoint. Ian Somers has stated that although he has enough ideas for 5 or 6 books, as of now he is finishing up the series with the 3rd installment. We can only hope he returns to the series in a few years!
Million Dollar Gift is where we first meet our protagonist. Ross Bentley has lived in the town of Maybrook (also know as “Dullsbrook”) for his entire life without much to show for it. He has one friend, Gemma, a crappy job in the local supermarket and a strained relationship with his father. The highlight of his day is when he makes his anonymous skateboarding videos for YouTube. But Ross has been hiding a secret since his mother's death and is finally ready to share.
Ross reveals his psychokenesis to Gemma and his dad, who take it pretty well. When Gemma tells Ross about a competion called The Million Dollar Gift, which offers a $1,000,000 prize to the person who can prove to possess a supernatural ability he leaps at the chance to get away from his dull Dublin suburb and relieve the financial pressures that his family is under.
Once in London, Ross faces numerous tests of his abilities and is contacted by a mysterious stranger, who warns him that the competition is not as it seems. Golding Scientific, the company running the competition, is searching for someone with psychokenesis to work for them as a replacement for an unstable employee. Ross slowly realises that he has stumbled into a world he knows nothing about and finds his whole life turned upside down as his identity and powers are revealed to the world.
Somers has written a fast-paced and interesting tale, which combines a strong main character with an intriguing premise. The first book in this series offers just enough information to build on in later books, while providing a compelling first look into the world that Ross Bentley has entered.
The Hidden Gift is the second book in the series and much more expansive than its predeccessor. Ian Somers uses this additional space to flesh out the world of 'gifteds' and provide a rich back story to the various factions which exist in this world.
Picking up shortly after the events of the previous book, Ross is now in exile, hiding from the public and his enemies, in a remote farmhouse with the disgruntled Guild member Hunter. As Ross begins to tire of training and itches to learn more about the Guild, he suddenly has the chance to accompany Hunter on a mission to track down a child prophet. The search takes a dark turn when they discover a trail of bodies and come face to face with a wayward member of the Guild, sparking a series of disturbing events which eventually lead right back to his enemies at Golding Scientific.
The Hidden Gift puts Bentley through the ringer as he comes face to face with what being a Guild member really means, the horrors that can be unleashed when the wrong person has gifts, and what lengths Ross himself is willing to go to. I really enjoyed this installment, even more so than the first book which is unusual for me!
The third book in the series, The Secret Gift, was released last year. Picking up one year after the events of the previous book Ross and Cathy have been living in self-imposed exile on the west coast of Ireland. Ross has changed considerably from the young boy whose days were spent stacking shelves and skating. He is haunted by his experiences and his relationship with Cathy is suffering. When she takes off on a trip, Hunter reappears and convinces Ross to rejoin him for one last mission. Ross is dragged into an escalating war between gifted individuals, culminating in the reveal of a secret which challenges everything he thought he knew about the Guild.
The Secret Gift provides a satisfying ending to many of the questions raised in previous installments while also leaving plenty of room for future adventures (or food for fanfic!).
I genuinely enjoyed the Ross Bentley series and while it deals with some heavy topics, I'd be happy to recommend it to younger teens with a thirst for adventure.
Thanks so much Jacq.
Jacq Murphy is a blogger, reviewer and a children, teens and YA bookseller for Eason Ireland.
Here is a link to O'Brien Press where you find out more about the books and the author. http://www.obrien.ie/results.html?keyword=ian+somers