Saturday, February 11, 2017


by Sage Blackwood
Recommended Ages: 11+

At six years old, Jinx is about to be abandoned in the Urwald, far off the paths where travelers are more or less safe from werewolves, trolls, and other hazards of the deep, people-hating forest. Then along comes a wizard named Simon, who saves the boy and makes him his servant. But even though Simon never hits Jinx like other adults in his life, and though he has a wife named Sophie who is the closest thing to a mother Jinx has ever known, he still isn't sure Simon is to be trusted. His confidence in the wizard drops even further when Simon does a terrifying spell that takes away the part of Jinx that allows him to see the colors of other people's feelings. Still armed with a unique connection to the trees of the Urwald that allows him to listen to their thoughts, when he digs his bare feet into their soil, and some ability to do spells and sense the source of other wizards' power, Jinx nevertheless thinks Simon has taken his magic away. So he decides to leave the wizard's house and seek his own fortune.

Along the way, Jinx gets mixed up with a witch named Dame Glammer, who travels by hopping butter-churn; a girl named Elfwyn, who is cursed to give only true answers to direct questions; and a boy named Reven, who also has a curse on him that prevents him from telling anyone who he really is or the nature of his curse. Somehow, though, Reven carries with him a terror that has the entire Urwald on the defensive. Dame Glammer, who likes getting people in trouble, manipulates the three kids into seeking the aid of an evil wizard named the Bonemaster, who soon captures them and threatens to make them part of his grisly collection, unless Simon comes to their rescue. The Bonemaster and Simon have some serious issues to work out between them, issues that involve some scarily dark magic and a danger of death that becomes more real for Jinx than for the hero of any children's fantasy series since, I suppose, Harry Potter.

I enjoyed this book's clever take on magic, the Urwald's atmosphere of dark secret concealing even darker secrets, the sharply contrasting setting of Samara with its different shade of spookiness, its crisp dialogue, and its well-focused characters. Readers will share the emotional connections between the main characters, experiencing affection, tension, frustration, grief, admiration, and many an appreciative chuckle at their wry sense of humor. With a variety of incident propelled along at a brisk pace, the book leaves you delighted by the promise of more to come.

This is the first book in the "Wizard's Apprentice" trilogy, continuing in Jinx's Magic and Jinx's Fire. Scheduled to be released March 21, 2017 is its New York-based author's next book, Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded.

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