First in a series
By Sage Blackwood
Available now from Harper Collins
JINX is good. JINX is really, really good. JINX is an example of everything middle grade fantasy can be, one of those books that will appeal to both parents and their children, as well as other people who just want a good book with curses and enchanted forests and plucky orphans.
Jinx is raised by the wizard Simon after his stepparents attempt to abandon him in the forest. You're safe as long as you stay on the path in the Urwald, but even then it's not an easy place to survive. It's easier if you're clever and kind, but there are many dangers lurking for the unsuspecting. Unfortunately for Jinx, he trusts Simon and ends up losing some of his magic as a consequence. When he goes out to claim it, he meets two other cursed orphans: Elfwyn and Reven. Elfwyn is a fellow child of the Urwald and Reven is an outsider who could bring great danger considering how he never quite manages to understand the place.
Did I mention how good JINX is? Because it's great. It's full of moral complexity, from witches and wizards who might be evil to fellow plucky orphans who have motives that might be at odds with Jinx's own. He relied on his ability to see people's feelings when he was younger and never learned to look much beyond that surface. Part of JINX is his growing up and learning who to trust and when to trust them. It can be hard, when some people seem more affable and decent than others, but might be nastier inside.
Beyond the subtle, detailed characters is a rich, fertile world. In fact, there's far more to the world than just the menacing, yet nurturing Urwald and Jinx longs to explore it. Sage Blackwood was clearly influenced by a variety of fairytales and other folklore, but she's created a fantasyland of her own. There's a touch of Hansel and Gretel here, a sprinkle of Baba Yaga there, but there's enough invention to make JINX feel fresh.
Do you love middle grade fantasy? Or do you just love fantasy, period? Then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of JINX. Blackwood's debut is an absolute standout, and I cannot wait to read about Jinx's future adventures.