16-year old Sydney Morgan has a black belt in karate and a tough attitude. She is devoted to her single mother and disabled sister. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Syd finds herself facing an uncertain future. When her absent father shows up, she is even more confused. A seeming chance encounter with a hospital custodian results in Syd's being transported back in time to the land of Zarahemla. Syd is accused of being a lamanite spy, but proves to the stripling warriors and Captain Helaman himself, that she is not. When Captain Helaman discovers Syd's ability to fight, he enlists her help in training his stripling warriors.
Syd manages to keep secret, the fact that she is a young woman, not a young man. However, she finds herself falling for Tarik, one of Helaman's chief warriors. Always hoping to return home, Syd draws upon her knowledge of the Book of Mormon to help her find her way in this new world.
I think Kathi Oram Peterson has crafted a story with great potential. She is open about the fact that while she has used real, well-known Book of Mormon heroes in her story, this is a work of fiction. She has created other characters and changed situations and time lines to suit her story. While I found much of the story implausible, I also found it fascinating.
I have to say that while I enjoyed the book, I'm really frustrated by the fact that everything is left hanging. Right up to the end, I kept wondering how it was all going to be resolved and the loose ends tied up. However, nothing is resolved. It is assumed that Steve, the hospital custodian who sent Sydney back to Zarahemla, did so for a specific purpose and not by accident. But, as everything is left open and unresolved, it's hard to see what that purpose is and how this adventure is going to help Syd, let alone her family, in the future. While I have been assured that this is the first of a series, there is no promise of a sequel, let alone a series at the conclusion of the book.
It would be nice to have had a teaser of "coming soon in the next installment of the Stripling Warriors saga..." to give us some hope that this story will eventually come together and be resolved. In any series, readers want some issues resolved along the way, even as they're kept hanging by others, rather than everything being resolved at the very end.
Overall, it was a compelling story that I liked, and one that I think has a great deal of potential. Entertaining and easy to read.