Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Black Magic Review


Black Magic

Shadow of the Pack Book 1

by Nicole Austen

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy 

The once-powerful and proud Willow River pack is struggling. But when a special litter of pups is born, hope of a bright future returns. Mala, born different, will never be given a chance to prove that she can be anything other than the runt of the litter. Some say her differences may even put the pack at risk. Now, her parents worry how the rest of the pack will react. Will they mistreat her? Will they fear her? But Mala doesn't think she's a threat to anyone, least of all her own family. Before Mala can change the hearts and minds of her pack, she must find out once and for all exactly why she is so different. In her search for the truth, Mala discovers something surprising about her pack and herself. Could she be the one wolf who changes everything?

Rating: Five out of five stars

This book is categorized as "middle-grade fantasy," and it is my understanding that "middle-grade" means the story is most appropriate for readers between the ages of eight and twelve. While readers in said age range could read the book, the story is more sophisticated than that category would imply. I'm nearly five times the upper age for "middle-grade" fiction, and if I were categorizing the book, I would file it under fantasy and animal stories without putting an age range on it. This really is not a "children's story." 

This tale tackles many sophisticated concepts and societal problems such as prejudice and superstition. The main protagonist, Mala, is a black wolf pup with dark magical abilities. Her pack believes she is an ill omen, sent because they have displeased their ancestors. Because of her coloring, the pack ostracizes Mala, and her life is in danger. When Mala learns of her destructive magical abilities, she fears the pack may be right about her.

Readers who enjoy stories such as Watership Down will appreciate this well-written book. The story contains no profanity, but there are scenes of both realistic and fantasy violence including the wolf pack hunting prey and fights involving the use of magic.

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Nicole Austen is a 19-year-old writer from Los Angeles. A lifelong love of animals and fantasy inspired her to begin writing Black Magic when she was thirteen years old, a draft of which won a National Scholastic silver medal for novel writing in 2019. Black Magic was published by Month9Books on August 30, 2022. Besides writing, Nicole loves hiking, playing piano, and spending time with her family and dog. She currently attends college in Boston.

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