It’s hard not to like a fantasy that is set in an argumentative magical forest, but Blackwood squanders the promise of her debut (Jinx, 2013) with a sequel that just spins its wheels.
Though he’s repeatedly assured that he doesn’t know who he is or what he’s doing, 12-year-old wizard-in-training Jinx continues to explore the nebulous extent of his burgeoning magical powers. He does this both at a school in the city of Samara, where he discovers a new style of magic, and in the Urwald, where he can draw huge amounts of raw power from the trees—but his ability to hear and speak to them is a mixed blessing. Meanwhile, his crabby mentor, Simon Magus, is recaptured by the Bonemaster, an affable archnemesis who has also taken to exterminating the Urwald’s scattered human communities, and Simon’s scholarly wife, Sophie, has been imprisoned. Further complicating matters, Reven (aka Prince Raymond) has given the whole forest fantods by promoting a profitable lumbering operation on the way to reclaiming his throne. Blackwood drops hints of a larger conflict looming and continues to throw her protagonist into dangerous situations. At odds with this are tongue-in-cheek plot elements, such as Jinx’s ability to see thoughts as pink puffy clouds or other shapes, cryptic remarks delivered at odd moments by elves and an oddly rational werewolf.
Typical of middle volumes: much backing and forthing to not enough purpose. (Fantasy. 10-12)