Never-a-dull-moment futuristic fantasy brims with energy.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Although it's a fantasy novel, Elemental is very much rooted in the history of Roanoke and Hatteras Islands off North Carolina. Author Antony John takes care to imagine a future Outer Banks that can be extrapolated from present-day geography.

Positive messages

One major theme of Elemental is the destructiveness of secrets. Almost all of the characters keep vital bits of information to themselves -- sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes not. By the end of the novel, it's clear that Thomas and his fellow islanders need to be honest with each other if they hope to survive.

Positive role models

Thomas believes that he's the only unremarkable member of a group of postapocalyptic survivors who wield powers that border on the supernatural. When the colony comes under attack, he must set aside his feelings of alienation and break through the legacy of secrets and lies bequeathed to him by his elders. His loyalty to his mute, sensitive brother spurs him to bravery in the face of great danger.


Featuring an extended chase scene from and battle with pirates, Elemental has a fair amount of violence, but it's not gratuitious. A pirate has his finger hacked off, Thomas' father is badly beaten, two supporting characters suffer gunshot wounds, and another pirate is thrown overboard.


Thomas finds himself in an awkward triangle with two female fellow islanders. But there's no physical intimacy because there seems to be a taboo among the colonists against touching Thomas.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Elemental is the exciting first volume of a fantasy series set in North Carolina's Outer Banks in the near future. The novel features a crew of villainous pirates, so there's a fair amount of violence -- beatings, gunshots, the amputation of a finger -- but the mayhem isn't gratuitously described. Three of the characters form an awkward romantic triangle, but there's little sexual content. Objectionable language and substance-abuse content are virtually nil.

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What's the story?

In the near future, a plague seems to have wiped out the North Carolina mainland, but a tiny colony survives on Roanoke. Each member possesses the power of one of the elements -- earth, water, wind, or fire -- except for Thomas, who apparently lacks any sort of magical gift. But when a hurricane and marauding pirates both head for the island, Thomas must find a way to save his family and friends. In doing so, he helps uncover secrets that will leave them all changed forever.

Is it any good?


ELEMENTAL is a nonstop adventure fantasy with an intriguing near-future setting. It presents a fresh take on the standard tropes of apocalyptic fiction, mixing history with fantasy and pirate derring-do. The characters get a little hysterical in their refusal to share vital information with one other, but the interplay between them remains compelling.

Many questions are left unanswered at the end of the book, but author Antony John inspires confidence that he'll be able to carry this saga forward with inventiveness and skill.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why postapocalyptic stories in books, movies, and TV are so popular. What's going on in our world that makes readers want to imagine a society with few resources in the near future, where everyone is struggling to survive? 

  • Are there times when it's better to hide the truth than it is to reveal it? How do you decide what information should be kept secret?

  • What might it feel like to grow up among talented people yet suspect that you have no special qualities of your own? Have you ever felt that way? 

Book details

Author:Antony John
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, History, Misfits and underdogs, Pirates
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dial Books
Publication date:November 21, 2012
Number of pages:320
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byreadqueen June 17, 2013


this book was an complete let down. SO boring and confusing, I could not even finish it.


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