This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

23 August, 2012

REVIEW: BLACKWOOD

Cover art: Steven Wood

BLACKWOOD
BY
GWENDA BOND

ISBN: 978-1-90884-406-4
Pages: 352
Published by: Strange Chemistry
Published: US/CAN/e-book 4 September 2012, UK 6 September 2012

On the cover:

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

   I'm a big fan of history, so I was immediately drawn in by the historical connection this novel has. The Lost Colony at Roanoke Island will be familiar to anyone who's ever had an interest in the "mysterious disappearances sub genre" of history, and Bond really does use it to great effect in her novel. I was especially pleased with the appearance of one historical figure who is connected to magic. It seems so logical when you read it, and it brings the supernatural elements from history to the present in a completely natural way.

   The novel doesn't take long to show us the present day mystery that is the main focus of the story, and the novel is "up and running" before the reader has time to get settled in. Bond is great at setting a fast pace, the story moves along so quick that the slower passages feel like a welcome opportunity for the reader to take a deep breath. The fast pace of the novel doesn't mean that it feels rushed, the pace of events flows naturally from the page.
   The fast pace of the novel is not caused by the action, although there is enough of that to satisfy, instead the story is driven by mystery. Bond presents the reader with events that deepens the mystery and suspense throughout the novel. There are a lot of twists and turns to what is happening and although one element is not a surprising revelation that doesn't mean it is predictable. It is very hard to see what is coming, and the answers to mystery we do get doesn't take away from that. Bond manages to keep up the level of suspense all the way to the end, and when all is finally resolved it is a satisfying ending.

   A novel isn't only driven by its story, it has to have characters that you care about in it. Bond has created some really great ones here. The main characters, Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling, come very well to life. Miranda is the protagonist of the novel, she is very well drawn and manages to feel both familiar and original. That there's something special about Miranda and Phillips will not come as a surprise, but the way Bond presents them, it doesn't feel out of place but just as a natural part of who they are.
   The supporting characters are also very well done, and they come with their own stories. We may not get to see it, but they are so alive on the page that you just know it is there. Even Miranda's father, who frankly gives a cliched first impression is shown to be much more than that later in the novel.

   To sum up, this is really a great novel. It has a great supernatural suspense story at it's center, and the pacing of a good action-thriller. The Urban, or in this case rather Rural, Fantasy elements are suitably fantastic while still managing to be realistic. We get great characters whose story is a joy to follow, and who I wouldn't mind seeing again.
   Bond has written a Young Adult novel that shows the strengths of YA, and how good YA can be when done right. Despite not being anywhere near the YA age group I found this a great read, and I can recommend it to anyone who likes Urban/Contemporary Fantasy. 
   This is a great debut novel by Gwenda Bond, and it is a novel that deserves a place on the shelves of any Fantasy fan. And for those that are partial to Young Adult, this is a must buy.

NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

No comments:

Post a Comment