Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Strange Chemistry
UK Release date: 6th September 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review
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. (Goodreads)
In Blackwood, Gwenda Bond has taken a seed of truth from history and created something mysterious, alchemical and dark. Roanoke is a tiny little island with a real past - 114 people went missing back when America was first being explored, and in Blackwood, 114 people mysteriously disappear again. I loved this concept of taking elements of history and a mystery from real life and turning into a modern day story.
The way aspects of the backstory and history fitted together with the present day did however confuse me a little. I wasn't 100% certain what the strange gun really did, or where the people actually disappeared to. The writing style was also a little halting as the character point of view changed with chapters from Miranda to Phillips, slowing down the flow, and I did struggle in the last third of the story as the pace slowed down.
Miranda was the island's resident 'freak', and her father was the town drunk. They came from a long line of Blackwood's, each shunned as their ancestors were. The family curse placed on her would probably overwhelm most people. But Miranda was determined and unstoppable. Together with Phillips, who has his own reputation, Miranda and Phillips were an unlikely but interesting pair to solve the Island's mystery.
At first Phillips comes across as pure bad boy. He steals his parent's car, sneaks off campus, and breaks into buildings. But as I got to understand him more, I realised he was caring, reliable, and trusting. I would have liked to have known more about why Phillips liked Miranda. I know he does, I know that he feels some affinity with her, but I wanted him to spell out what he liked about her. For me that would have made his feelings more tangible and real, rather than something that just existed.
Dee, the famous alchemist, is linked into the story as the master behind the history of the island. What made him into the bad guy for me was the fact that he inhabited someone else's body (I won't say who) which was rather gross. He was very creepy and sinister character, making him a perfect bad guy to the story.
Blackwood is a dark and interesting fusion of historical and modern day alchemy, mystery and magic.