Author
: Kaza Kingsley

Title: The Secret of Ashona

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Just in case you haven't gotten the memo, YA—otherwise known as young adult fiction—is still where it's at books-wise.

Even with Harry Potter, not to mention Bella, Edward and Jacob on an indefinite hiatus, YA has never been more popular, thanks to next month's first Hunger Games movie, which is based on the best-selling trilogy.

And while a little more under than pop culture's radar than these aforementioned characters, the novels starring Erec Rex also have a very enthusiastic, wide-ranging fanbase.

Case in point: There's been some serious buzz brewing for the fifth title in author Kaza Kingsley's "Erec Rex" series, The Secret of Ashona, for a while now. Like the best books, its predecessor The Three Furies, which released in August 2010, had the kind of dramatic finish that couldn't help but leave the reader satisfied. But as good as it was, it also left fans practically chomping at the bit for what happens next.

And while the expectations couldn't help but be sky high for The Secret of Ashona, Kingsley seemed up for the challenge. Like she did with The Three Furies, the road to future royalty keeps getting more dangerous for Erec. Charged to complete two tasks (there are 12 in all) that are his most challenging endeavors yet, he's learning just how important it is to lean on his friends for support.

Written in a warm, relatable style, Erec is still a character that feels like most kids his age. Often contrasting his unique circumstances with those of everyday kids, his fantastical existence still feels within the reader's reach, while continuing to stir your imagination at the same time.

As his feelings continue to develop for Bethany, we also get a snapshot of the awkward bliss that is young love. A paragraph about what it means when your maybe girlfriend signs a note to you "Love, Bethany" brilliantly captures all those conflicting feelings in one fell swoop.

Lest anyone mistake it for something Stephanie Meyer wrote in "The Twilight Saga," however, it's not love that conquers all in The Secret of Ashona. If anything, it plays second, even third fiddle, to the swirl of adventure that awaits Erec as he moves toward becoming King of an intriguing magical land. 

*This review first published 2/21/2012