Friday, July 6, 2012

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

Strange Chemistry
Released: September 4, 2012
352 pages
Buy here.

This is a wonderful piece of young adult fiction that takes place on modern-day Roanoke Island and features Miranda Blackwood, a teen who is a bit of an outcast among her peers, and Phillips Rawling, supposedly-delinquent son of the town's police chief who can hear voices of the dead.  Phillips is away at school off the island when the story begins, but after the disappearance of Miranda's father and 114 other people from town, his father requests that he return to the island.  Once there, he and Miranda end up working together to fight a foe from the island's past, a foe who was involved in the first infamous disappearance of the original colonists of the island in the late 1500s, a foe who will stop at nothing to gain immortality for himself and his followers.

Miranda and Phillips must find out what happened to the people who disappeared (and why they act so differently after suddenly returning), where Miranda's father has gone, what the spirits who speak to Phillips want, and why a strange snake-shaped scar has suddenly appeared on Miranda's cheek.  All the while they must dodge parents, law enforcement, and evil henchmen as they attempt to bring down their opposition.

Minor aspects of the novel are based on historical fact, but for the most part Bond takes great liberties with her historical figures by incorporating particular relationships, genealogies, and, most importantly, magic and evil curses to create her plot.  For some reason, I was a bit worried about the story sinking into a certain level of silliness, but Bond does a great job of mixing the historic with the fantastic, and this balance makes everything work.  In addition, the characters come off as real, and that makes enjoying the ride of the story effortless.  The pacing is great, and I had a hard time putting the book down because Bond creates a good mystery around all the action that really makes you want to keep reading.  I would definitely recommend this to young adult readers, particular those interested in colonial history and low/contemporary fantasy.  There are times when plot points and character development fall a bit flat, but overall I had an enjoyable reading experience with this book.

Rating: 3.5/5

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