Monday, September 3, 2012

Blackwood, by Gwenda Bond

From Goodreads:
On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Going into this story I didn't know anything about the true life mystery and legends of Roanoke Island, however, I did know a certain amount about Virginia Dare, John Dee and Sir Walter Raleigh- who are all key characters in either the complete story or the denouement.  I wouldn't say either thing hindered or helped me, since Bond did a good job of filling in the historical details where necessary, but there is a certain amount of depth that can be added to the tale if you come into it knowing something about the actual historical characters.

Bond's twist on the legend, and her use of several of histories more colourful enigmas was fun and intriguing.  There was excellent tension, a seriously creepy villain and several plot twists I didn't see coming.  But where Blackwood really excelled was with it's two main characters, Miranda and Phillips.   These two had fun dialogue, believable interactions and great chemistry.  In fact any scene that didn't involve the two of them together, was somehow slightly disappointing, not because it was bad, but just because together they had so much zing.

Phillips is the good-hearted delinquent and Miranda is the misunderstood, but non-resentful community outcast, together they are a decided handful.  Throw in a dog and they're a downright super hero team (the dog is even called Sidekick, come on!).  Although Bond commits the common YA sin of undermining the parents for the sake of her story (Phillips is supposed to check in with his police chief father with updates or else, and fails to do so immediately without consequences), she does at least develop them enough so that they're human instead of figure heads.

There were several cute moments, with a couple of down right funny lines, but most of Blackwood was a serious affair.  I loved the snapshots of funny, and would have enjoyed seeing more of it.  Lines like:
"Morning, creepy people," and "That creepy donut is all yours. I'm never eating donuts again.", made me wish Bond had let loose with the giggles a little more frequently to lighten up some of the more intense moments.

All in all a fun and intriguing story dealing with a fascinating historical mystery I wasn't previously aware of.  I can't wait to dig into some of Strange Chemistry's other books in their first ever fall line up, so far it's looking pretty promising!

Blackwood, by Gwenda Bond
Published by Strange Chemistry, September 4th, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher


  1. This sounds really good. But I don't know about a book that maligns my favorite fat and sugar deep fried treats.

    1. Agreed, donuts should obviously be their own food group.