The concept of a tiny band of humans who posses the ability to understand and control the elements taking refuge on an island shelter because the rest of the world has been destroyed by plague is intriguing. I also enjoyed that there are other survivors of the plague who sail endlessly around the ocean, afraid to place their feet on land again until the threat of plague has been definitely destroyed.
The characters, for me, are what made this book truly interesting. I had a good sense of each of the main characters, and I liked the way relationships shifted and grew, either closer or further apart, as the plot unfolded. I was especially interested in Alice and Rose, the two girls that our narrator, Thom, is very attracted to and feels connected to, albeit in different ways. Both are strong, capable girls in their own right, though Rose takes longer to step into her own.
I found the writing style to be fairly straightforward and concise, which made for quick and easy reading. With high stakes like pirates and plague and magical control of the elements, combined with a likable male narrator, I can see readers who like adventurous, swashbuckling tales gravitating toward this series.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Unfortunately, as compelling as I found the initial concept, I found myself increasing frustrated as I read because there were a lot of "ah-ha" moments from the characters' perspectives that I'd either seen coming a mile away or that meant absolutely nothing to me because the ah-ha moment arrived at the same time as the explanation for why it was an ah-ha. That took all the punch out of the revelation and left me struggling to wonder why it even mattered. I had a very hard time figuring out what was really going on (and yes, I get that the kids were having a hard time figuring out what parts of their world were true and which were lies), and eventually, I stopped trying to piece anything together because the author just hadn't given me enough of the world to enable me to interact with the mystery.
I think if I'd had a chapter or two of normalcy in the beginning, where I could see how the camp life worked, what everyone's roles were, and what rules/traditions etc were in place, I would've been able to feel emotionally connected to the characters when things started to go wrong, and I've have had a much better understanding of what each revelation meant.
I also had a hard time understanding how a small group of people who all happened to control an element managed to escape to Roanoke Island together in time to escape the plague. We're given to understand that the plague hit during what we would consider modern times, so it's not like elementals are a common sight at our local Starbucks. I wanted to understand how these families knew each other, if the elemental control was centuries old in their bloodstream, how they'd remained hidden etc. so that instead of looking like a coincidence, it would make sense to me that all of them escaped together.
The overall vagueness of the world set-up and the lack of an established normalcy to help highlight the abnormalcy when revelations began would've taken this book from a 3+ star to a 4 or better for me.
ELEMENTALS has an intriguing premise and moves quickly, and despite worldbuilding and pacing issues, will appeal to readers who like bold adventures.