Friday, 24 August 2012

Early Review: Blackwood

-       Gwenda Bond

Publisher: Strange Chemistry – To be Published 4th September 2012

Ecopy courtesy of netgalley and Strange Chemistry
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.

As one of the first books to be published by Angry Robots new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, Blackwood has an intrigue premise and a lot of promise. Luckily it manages to deliver on that promise and sets a high standard for Strange Chemistry’s future releases.

Miranda lives on Roanoke Island, site of one the first settlements colonised from England, but after a few years the whole settlement – all 114 people disappeared without a trace. Then, in present day another 114 all disappear at the same time...what does this mean to Miranda and her cursed family? And how does the boy who branded her a snake when they young fit in – especially as he hasn’t been back to the island in the last four years?

The set up and introduction of the characters is well done – pulling you in and playing on your brain? What happened to the original settlers? Why is it repeating now? How does Miranda’s family fit in? I love historical mysteries and the disappearance of the Roanoke settlement is a real puzzler. The repeat disappearance is enough to send shivers up your spine with the whole community frightened. Miranda seems to be caught right in the middle when her father is first thought to be one of the missing. Phillips return to the island and his relationship with his parents is a great contrast to Miranda’s situations and adds some heart to the proceedings. I loved his mother and father and how they want to both help and protect – and occasionally making the wrong decision, but for the right reasons.

The writing is like marshmallows – easy to swallow and addictive – you just want to read one more page. However, for me the answers to the questions, and the resolution were not as strong as the set up. The true reasons and even motivations of the missing just don’t seem to ring true for some reason – it all seems a bit too simple with little shades of grey that I expected given the strong characterisation of Miranda and Phillips. However, Blackwood is a fun read with a fantstic set-up and characters you can’t help rooting for – sit back, relax and explore Roanoke Islands mysteries...

Recommended for fans of Jeri Smith-Ready and Tamora Pierce. 7.5 out of 10


  1. Oh I think that the simple explanations would bother me too, but sometimes you can let it go and enjoy the ride. Looks like you were able to do that and so I may as well. I've been curious about this one.

  2. Great review!
    I enjoyed this one, but I agree with you about needing to accept a lot with the explanations.

  3. Ohh the creepy place, yes why did they disappear? Cool. But the whole marshmallow thing, eh