My Thoughts On: Elemental by Antony John

Posted December 19, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 24 Comments

Elemental by Antony John
Series: Elemental #1
Published by Dial Books/Penguin
Publish Date: November 21, 2012 
320 pages
Source:  ARC from Author – Thank you!

A lost colony is reborn in this heart-pounding fantasy adventure set in the near future . . .

Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an Element—earth, water, wind or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’ world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine. -(summary from Goodreads)

Elemental by Antony John

My Thoughts: I’ve been sitting on this one forever. I mean, I literally followed this book from the moment I first heard it would be set on the North Carolina Outer Banks until I had a copy to read in my hands. So, so excited I was! When I started reading it, I made myself read it slowly so I could absorb every detail. Since I’ve finished it, I’ve re-lived the story several times. Now I have to figure out how to tell you all how I feel about it. Such a tricky thing to do.

The first thing you need to know is this:
I love pretty much everything that makes up this story. 
I love stories about elementals. I love stories about pirates. I love stories about plagues and survival and storms and the ocean. I love dystopians and fantasies. I love when a setting comes to life. I love strong female characters and great male leading characters. I love a mean villain and I love a great twist or two. Antony John took all of these things, threw them together, and out came Elemental. It sounds like a lot of stuff, but it completely works. 

Thomas lives with the rest of his colony on a small Outer Banks island, isolated from the rest of the world – especially the plague-wasted mainland. He is the only one without the power of an element and is therefore treated like an outsider. Thomas spends most of his time with his brother Griffin, also an outcast because of an unusual ability and an underdeveloped elemental power. Thomas desperately wishes for more friendship, more companionship. Mostly, he would give anything for an elemental power of his own so he can finally belong.

As a hurricane quickly approaches, the Guardians (the colony elders) insist on evacuating Thomas and the other colonists to the hurricane shelter on a nearby island. Almost as soon as the evacuation occurs, things start happening. THINGS. Exciting things, like the kidnapping of the Guardians, for starters. The excitement never lets up as Thomas and the rest of the gang realize that pirates are responsible for taking the Guardians and they are the only ones that can rescue them.

The second thing you need to know is this:
It took EVERYTHING IN ME to read this story slowly. 

When I said that things started happening, what I really meant is this: things happened and they didn’t stop. Once Antony John set his foundation – once he gave us the information we needed to start the story – it really took off. There were fires and kidnappings and people got hurt. People used the power of their elements and it was awesome. There were secrets held and secrets revealed. There were hunts and chases and escapes. Hurricanes and winds and the mighty ocean! The pirates acted like pirates: mean, nasty, and mean. And there were plot twists, which I loved.  

I am a fast reader. I can tear through a book that I am enjoying. Because of the setting of this book and the fact that it is a fantasy story with pirates and hurricanes and things that I love, I wanted to take my time with it. I allowed myself to read a few pages at the time and then made myself put the book down. When I do that, I can remember story details so much better, and usually for much longer. Reading a story over a longer period of time can be torturous for me, but in the end it is perfect and awesome because it is like eating dessert slowly and savoring every delicious bite.

The third thing you need to know is this:

I was initially interested in the story because of the SETTING.
But ELEMENTAL stands on its own and is all-around great.

Like I mentioned, I was interested in this story initially because of the setting. I live close to the Outer Banks and not many people write books set in North Carolina, particularly Eastern North Carolina, so I was very interested in seeing what this fantasy story would be like. I read the story and easily pictured the places in my head – the bridges, the islands, the actual waterways. Antony John was absolutely correct when he said HERE that “the area is perfect for a fantasy novel.” 

LOOK! A map! In the final copy of Elemental! 

I could go on and on about my love for this setting, but I won’t do that to you guys. Some of you already know how much I love a setting in a story. The setting factor is huge here, almost like a character. The ocean is churning and raging because of the hurricane. Additionally, the water is one of the elements that can be controlled. The islands are described perfectly with their sand and wind in some parts, and their towns in others (in this case, the towns are abandoned). There are bridges and marsh-like areas. There is a lighthouse that is described perfectly, inside and out. I just loved it, and not because it is practically my backyard. I felt like I got to know the area as something viable and three-dimensional and almost tangible, and that is so cool. I love it when a book gives me a setting like that.


Antony John’s Elemental was so much fun for me to read. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the next book, which is kinda/sorta brutal since Elemental was just released a few weeks ago. I find myself holding my breath when I anticipate something for such a long time, waiting to see how things will turn out – I am so happy that I was not disappointed at all with this book. In fact, I was thrilled.

These characters are great. Thomas is a male leading character with a bit of a problem – the absence of his elemental power – and in the beginning of the book, it sort of has him feeling down in the dumps. As the story progresses, we see Thomas as a character that is courageous and brave, even when he feels like he isn’t, and he begins to have some faith in himself. What is this? Some character development? YES, and I love it. His friends Alice and Rose are very interesting to me – they’re quite the opposite of one another and but both very likable. Alice is has an underdeveloped element (fire), so she can understand a little bit of Thomas’ feelings of being an outsider. She takes it upon herself, though, to be extremely fiercely independent – almost to the point of intimidating those around her. Alice is tough and a hard worker, and wants to be seen as such. Rose, on the other hand, is very protective and delicate and quite lovely. She has the power to manipulate water (and it is so cool what she can do with it). Where Alice seems rough around the edges, Rose seems very gentle and soft and kind with her speech. I am eager to see where the next part of the story takes these two gals and their relationship with Thomas, and I have to wonder if a romance/triangle will develop. (These three would make a perfect triangle if one is in the works.)

Then there is Griffin, Thomas’ brother. LOVE this character. Griffin has an element (earth), which is underdeveloped. He also can foresee death, and this makes people want to stay away from him. Because of his outsider status, he and Thomas have become very close as brothers and friends. The two are an awesome team as they work together to rescue the Guardians and figure out all of the secrets and clues that keep popping up in the story. As information is revealed about the island’s history, the lost colonies, the powers of the elements, etc., Griffin becomes more and more awesome (and so does Thomas). I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the rest of the series. He appeared to be a ‘weak’ character in the beginning of Elemental in terms of strength, but I think there are some great things in store for Griffin based on his progression throughout this story.

I have mentioned the setting several times. It’s amazing. I’m not sure that it is necessarily world-building by definition, but it is definitely an incredible fantasy setting that is based on and inspired by a real place. The imagery is vivid and it is easy to see this story play itself out as a movie inside of your head as you read, which is so desirable for us as readers. In terms of pacing, once the story and characters are laid out, the story picks up and is primarily action-driven, never stopping until the end. I was forcing myself to stop reading at intervals so I could make the story last longer. And I loved the ending: Antony John left us in a great place to begin the next part of this series. If I’m guessing correctly, the next book will take off running and have an exciting story. I really want to know, I truly want to know, the next part of the story. Alas, I’ll have to wait!

You guys, I struggle with how to tell people when I find a story that I love so much. Adventure stories take up such a big place in my heart, and Elemental is such an adventure. Pirates and kidnappings and lost colonies! Survival in the harshest of nature. Secrets and lies and betrayal. People finding out things that completely change the course of their lives. I know specific people that would love this book. I want to hear this book in audio format. I want schools, especially in this region, to have this book in their classrooms and libraries. I want the next book in this series now. I want to read it again.

This book was so worth the wait to me. I loved it so much. I still love it so much. Next time I read it, I will love it again. I recommend Elemental to fans of adventure stories and pirates, fans of fantasy and dystopians, people who love books with elemental powers in them, and people who love books with male leading characters.


Elemental will appeal to fans of:

YA Fantasy/Adventure/Dystopian
Pirates, Argh!
Great Characterization with Development

Survival: Hurricanes
Action-Driven Plot, Great Pacing

Elemental by Antony John
is currently available for purchase.

*I received this book from the author. This in no way affected my thoughts on the story. 


Is ELEMENTAL on your to-read list?

Can we take a second to appreciate that awesome COVER? 

Check out a fantastic blog post HERE
on Capillya’s blog that cover girl.

Friends, I love this book.
Can’t wait for the next one. 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


24 responses to “My Thoughts On: Elemental by Antony John

  1. Phew! I am SO GLAD you enjoyed this one! Antony John's Five Flavors of Dumb blew me away earlier this year, but I was a little skeptical on how he'd handle fantasy/dystopia, so I'm thrilled to see you enjoyed it so much. I'm hoping to get my hands on it soon, so I can't wait to immerse myself in this world and its characters. Wonderful review, Asheley! 🙂

    • It's so funny, Keertana, because I'm so new to the contemporary genre. I've never actually read Antony John's contemporary books – I actually started backward with this one. Everyone absolutely LOVES Dumb and I've heard great things about Road Trip as well. I picked up Road Trip the same day, the very same day, I started this book because if I love this genre that is new to him, I certainly want to move backward and read his contemps as well.

      The only other experience that I have with moving backward with non-contemporary to contemporary (to the best of my memory) is with Courtney Summers, and that worked out well for me. So I have super high hopes for Antony John as well! Not that the two have anything in common, haha.

      But, yeah, this was just a super-fun, great book that I enjoyed like crazy. WAY at the top of my 2012 for sure.

  2. Oh, I haven't heard of this one yet (probably because I've been pretty much non-existent around the book blogosphere lately), but it sound awesome! Pirates? Plagues? Elementals? What more could you want? And I have to say…I've missed reading your reviews! They're always so detailed and well-thought out…I always have a good feeling as to whether or not I'll enjoy the book based on your thoughts! 🙂

    • HEY NATALIE!!! I've missed you around but YAY for seeing you up here today and also on your blog as well! YAY for all that you're doing – you're so awesome. 🙂

      Yes, this book was loads of fun. Period. I know your to-read list is backed-up like crazy and ten miles long, but if you want fun and adventure, this is a great one for your list. This is near and dear to my heart because I live basically right by the ocean, very close to where this takes place. So I've been waiting on this one for ages. Thrilled with it. Can't wait to see where the next book goes.

  3. ASHELEY! You just made me SO MUCH MORE excited for this book than I already was! I was drawn in by the cover and the promise of elemental powers… and it sounds fantastic! <3

    • ALEXA. Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. It's so funny, I actually thought of you and another blogger (Heather from The Flyleaf Review) when I read this book. I thought you both might enjoy it a lot.

      This book and Rootless by Chris Howard – PLEASE put them on your to-read for when you get a chance. DO IT. Both for different reasons but both are favorites of mine this year. And I think you'll really like them. A lot. 🙂

  4. I think I'm going to love this book. I was a bit on the fence whether to read it or not, but now I'm pretty much convinced to read it ASAP. Great review!

    New follower.

    • Hey, thanks Erin! Nice to meet you. 🙂

      I loved this book to pieces. Just, so much. I hope you love it too. So much adventure and a set of fun characters, and I love the raging hurricane and survival and pirates and colorful characters. I'm thrilled by this one and am so eager for the next book!

  5. WOW. I love when I can tell that a reviewer is GUSHING over a book, and this is definitely Asheley gushing over Elemental. I loved Five Flavors of Dumb, so I can't wait to see what Antony John does with a dystopian/fantasy book. PIRATES! and a great SETTING! So many things to love. Plus, I remember loving the sibling relationship in FFoD, and it sounds like there's another great one here.

    • Oh I want to read Five Flavors of Dumb so much! I'll get to it in the future. I bought Road Trip on the first day that I began Elemental because I just KNEW that I'd be loving it and I would want to try out his contemps too because everyone loves them so much.

      The sibling relationship between Thomas and Griffin is awesome. They understand each other so well, and there are reasons for that, but beyond that – it is just written so well. Like you, I love the sibling relationships in books, so I thought about you when I was writing about these two as brothers. These two are special in several ways and they're just so doggone enjoyable to read. So, yes, their relationship is one of the many fantastic things about this book. Griffin's character is just incredible. Loved him so much. I can't wait for him in the next book because I believe he will develop as an incredibly interesting character over the story arc, even outside of Thomas as the main character. So, so, so excited to see where this series is going. As if you couldn't tell, haha.

    • This setting is amazing. Even if I did not live close by, it would be a setting-as-character moment for me, and you KNOW that I kind of live for those in my reading.

      I cannot wait for book two. I find myself all "Jazz Hands Asheley" when I tell people about this one. HAHA!

  6. I have got to check this one out…me and pirates, you know my love/love relationship with them, Ash!

    And I really am fascinated with the Lost Colony of Roanoke mystery, always have been. And you're right, the Outer Banks isn't a very common setting in lit, though I will admit to always having a fascination with it ever since I watched The Prince of Tides! Visiting that area is on my bucket list, which is perfect since I can visit YOU at the same time and kill two birds with one stone:)

    Like April and Lauren, I really enjoyed Five Flavors of Dumb, so I am curious to read how John does a genre different than contemporary:)

    And on a side note: love the name Griffin! It was a runner up when we were naming my youngest son:)

    • I need to read Five Flavors. On the very day I started this, I went out and bought Thou Shalt Not Road Trip to read during my Contemporary Month, but I'm not sure if I want to wait that long. I think I'm a fan for life.

      I love the Lost Colony stuff too, of course, and you know I love the ocean and the Outer Banks, being right here. This story is SO VERY TRUE to the landscape exactly, exactly as it is while being fantasy and pirates and awesome. You can actually pull up Google Earth and trace the steps of the characters on the islands and the shore of NC, and I can see the places very vividly in my head. I just *KNEW* I'd have the regional connection but I loved the story far more than just the region, and I cannot wait until the next part of it comes out. I'm so invested in these characters and the elemental magic and the nasty pirates and the other things that I'm not going to spoil for you. And Griffin, what a great character. You'll love him. When you read it, let me know what you think. Like I told another commenter above you, I STILL haven't moved this book from beside my bed because I still pick it up and read through it, and it's been almost two months. I'm smitten.

  7. I'm pretty sure this is the first review I've read of this book, and now I MUST get my hands on it. First off, the setting sounds *awesome*. I love that it's based on a real place, but still fantasy. Also, PIRATES. That is all. 🙂 Great review, Asheley!

    • Yes, exactly, this –> "I love that it's based on a real place, but still fantasy." Somehow you managed to say in one sentence what I tried to but still couldn't in an entire blog post. I had such a good time with this book. I loved it so much. I want every library in my region to have it so every young person and every interested adult can read it. It's SO GOOD to me, such fun, and it is one of my top anticipated books for this year – and GOSH what a long wait.

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