An engrossing, well-written, and original story; readers will be eager for the next installment.

DANIEL SCRATCH

A STORY OF WITCHKIND

A teenage boy learns how to wield a powerful magical force in this fantasy novel, the first in Jones’ YA series.

Since he was 10, after his parents’ deaths, Daniel Scratch has lived alone in the once-grand old family house, looked after by brownie servants with occasional attention from his great-great-grandmother, who “declined to leave the house simply because she’d died.” Now, on Daniel’s 13th birthday, Grandmother summons him to her attic abode, where she informs the boy that he will be tested and take his place among other witchkind. He passes, but it turns out that he’s no ordinary witch. If he were, he’d attend a witchkind school for his education, but Daniel’s special abilities mean he must be apprenticed for personal instruction. The boy travels to a remote rock-bound islet and the Tower of Endings, where he meets Kirmin, an ebony-skinned woman of uncertain age to whom he gives his true name, Daniel Drake Teisejas. (The book seems to assume a White default since only Kirmin’s skin color is described.) His new mentor begins teaching Daniel about the history, philosophy, and practice of witchkind in eight Lessons over five years. He learns, for example, of the six Axes of Power, which correspond to the world’s wild energies, such as the sea, fire, and earth, and the seven Forms each axis possesses (Communication, Travel, Mind, Defense, Attack, Essence, and Calling). The Sixth Axis—Daniel’s—connects with “the power of Endings and Conclusions.” Unlike the other Axes, the Sixth Axis has only one adherent at a time. Between lessons, Daniel practices runes and spells while exploring the tower with its books, maps, and other amenities. By the end of his training, Daniel must use his powers to face a potentially world-destroying crisis that could break down the Veil between humans and witchkind.

Jones has written several SF novels; this is his first work of fantasy. This story may bear some resemblance to other novels about young people trained in magic powers. But Jones has created something new, compelling, beautifully written, and somewhat reminiscent of Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). Daniel’s powers are well balanced by the loneliness of his isolated tower and his great responsibilities (an adherent of the Sixth Axis must serve as a judge for witchkind). Daniel’s appeal steadily increases thanks to his intelligence, thoughtfulness, and self-direction, as when he gives himself an exercise routine, growing stronger physically as well as magically. Though the novel includes a great deal of lore, the author handles its exposition gracefully, introducing new information naturally. Runes, a chief component in working magic, are also well integrated; their forms aren’t just arbitrary symbols, as with the communication rune that resembles an ear. Another nice touch is using Lithuanian for the language of witchkind—communication is šnabždesys, for example—which to English speakers sounds and looks appropriately exotic.

An engrossing, well-written, and original story; readers will be eager for the next installment.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-953645-00-5

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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