By Rachel Neumeier
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
BLACK DOG is super cool. I don't even know where to start. It's such a rich world with such intriguing characters and I just want to read it again or have a sequel or something so I can roll around in it some more. It struck me as something like a Maggie Stiefvater novel. I want to talk to people about what they think certain scenes meant, or how they interpret certain actions, or what they think will happen next. (I mean, I adore stand-alones and want more, but at the same time, I wouldn't kick Rachel Neumeier out of publishing for writing a sequel.)
Natividad, her twin brother Miguel, and their older brother Alejandro have immigrated to the USA to find the Dimiloc pack and ask them for protection. Their parents were killed by one of their father's old enemies and they know their only hope is the respected Dimiloc pack; however, the pack doesn't tend to be kind to outsiders.
You see, Alejandro and the pack are black dogs. They're angry and territorial and can shift with their shadows. Miguel is human, but Natividad is Pure. It's sort of like being a recessive carrier, except you also get to do spiritual magic. Thus, Natividad is the only one with a good in, but it's one that means she'll probably be married off pretty young. This could be very skeevy, the book acknowledges that it could be skeevy, and Natividad's agency in her romantic choices is explored.
Things BLACK DOG has: protective siblings, protective parents, protective friends, spectacular magic, brutal fights, comic fights, silly boys, clever boys, dangerous girls, sweet girls, an exploration of both fantastic prejudice and real racism. It's all grounded in the tight bond between the siblings and the potential for them to bond with the pack too. I loved how detailed Neumeier is about both their lives before and their potential lives now. It's not just surviving the danger, but little things like how eggs are cooked in the morning and remembering to speak English. And it's all told so beautifully.
I heard people sing Neumeier's praises when HOUSE OF SHADOWS came out, but I never read it. BLACK DOG makes me regret that. I am so going to devour Neumeier's backlist. Also, I'm going to make the time to read this one again.