Mystery Month is underway at Booklist and there is a lot of fun ahead. If you like your mystery served up with a heavy dose of fantasy, you will enjoy puzzling out the many mysteries woven into Sage Blackwood’s stellar novel.
Cindy: It’s a good day when you find a new fantasy that reminds you of Diana Wynne Jones! Jinx (Harper 2013) already has four starred reviews (one of them from Booklist) and it is worthy of them. This book pokes fun at traditional folk tales (Jinx is taken into the dangerous Urwood to be abandoned by his step-father a la Hansel & Gretel) and the pokes are inventive and entertaining. Jinx gets rescued by Wizard Simon who teaches him that it might be dangerous to stray from the magically protected path in the Urwood, “but if you spent all your time being protected, you never got to find out anything new.” The path in this story is well-worn…a mistreated young orphan is abandoned only to learn he has extraordinary talents…and yet, the story crackles with originality and intriguing characters. Is Simon good or evil? The clues point both directions. And the Bonemaster…with his swaying bridge made of human bones certainly seems evil. Add in trolls, werewolves and witches and a sentient forest and there’s plenty to give readers chills.
Curses! Yes, there are curses too. Jinx flees Simon’s care after a curse is placed on him and he joins up with two other traveling companions who are both cursed. Once the reader figures out the curses the situations and dialogue takes on new humorous twists.
Jinx makes a great hero and he reminds us that we must not fear to go places. When he returns to Gooseberry Clearing where he used to live he realizes that, “if he’d stayed here, he wouldn’t be himself.” Isn’t that the truth?
Give this to all your eager middle grade fantasy readers (and I can think of a few older readers who will enjoy this too) and then start the wait list for the next book in this series. Despite the cliff at the end of the story, we are not left hanging there, but readers will be eager for another installment just the same.
Lynn: Oh yes!! Cindy gets no argument from me about this delightful and entertaining new book. Who could resist witches hopping about on butter churns, or a wizard who forgets about his apprentice for days? Fortunately our hero, Jinx, is resilient and possesses unusual talents – something readers figure while the adults in the story haven’t so far. There is a whiff of Diana Wynne Jones here – especially in the practical minded Jinx and the cranky wizard Simon – but Blackwood has made this story entirely her own. Humor, fun adventure and thoroughly engaging characters added to the wonderfully inventive story line makes this one of those books you just don’t want to put down. There was a very satisfying resolution too but readers are left with the lovely promise of new adventures ahead. I can’t wait!!