Jinx by Sage Blackwood360 pgs.
Target audience: Middle Reader
Jinx lives up to his name, at least at first. His parents die and leave him their hut in one of the many clearings throughout the ancient Urwald forest. After his hut burns down, Jinx is shuttled off to his less than enthusiastic step-parents, Bergthold and Cottawilda, who after the arrival of their new baby see Jinx as rather unnecessary. The Urwald is a perilous place and those who stray from the path are easy prey for trolls, werewolves and other beasts plus wizards whom everyone knows are up to no good, especially the one named Bonemaster who “sucks out people’s souls with a straw.” Be wary and stick to the path is a rule known to each and every child. But one day Bergthold takes Jinx deep into the forest off the path and leaves him there. The wizard, Simon Magus, mysteriously appears and decides to take Simon in to help out with chores around his house. Even though Simon is a wizard, Jinx, knows it’s a far better fate than being alone in the Urwald. Jinx has a secret - he can see people’s feelings as colored clouds. The work he performs makes him strong, but it’s the magic in Simon’s lab that draws his interest. Simon finally agrees to teach him to read and let him help out in his lab. As Simon explores the house and it’s immediate surroundings, he discovers that he can listen to the trees talk. Simon says there’s not been a Listener in over a hundred years and insists it’s just a myth anyway. Jinx runs away to find Simon’s witch friend, Dame Glammer, after a spell Simon casts takes Jinx’s power away. His adventures in the forest include making new friends, battling monsters, and sneaking into the dreaded Bonemaster’s lair. Each of the three adventurers has a problem that can only be alleviated by wizard magic. Jinx knows the trees are afraid of what is coming and that he and his companions must save the forest or all is lost, but whom can they trust? Simon who betrayed him, Dame Glammer who gave Simon the ingredients for that horrible spell or the Bonemaster whose motives are unclear. Blackwood has created a thrilling new fantasy filled with the characters you love to root for and deliciously tricky wizards. The reader won’t know what to expect next. Jinx may have an unlucky name, but his ingenuity, magic, and never-ending desire to help others make him the luckiest one of all. Let us hope for a sequel because no doubt Jinx and his companions will have many more adventures kids will love to read about. (Book provided for review by HarperColllins)