Jinx by Sage Blackwood

jinxMany times I appreciate middle-grade fantasy without necessarily liking them–great for their intended audience but perhaps a little thin for adult readers. But every so often a book comes along which is at the same time so exactly what I would have loved at thirteen and at the same time so exactly what I love right now. And when that happens, my heart fills with joy. Jinx, by Sage Blackwood, is one of those books.

To be honest, I don’t quite know how to write this review, because what I really want to do is reach through the screen, grab you, and say, “YOU! Read this book! Now!” But here are the reasons I loved this book.

1. Jinx. I totally believed in Jinx, in both his strengths and weaknesses. He’s relentlessly curious, kind, and full of wonder. A marvelous, marvelous main character.

2. Everyone else. Simon and Sophie especially–in my head they’re TOTALLY related to Howl and Sophie–but Reven and Elfwyn too, and Dame Glammer. Even the Bonemaster is fascinating.

3. The setting. I love it more than I can say when settings feel like characters in their own right, and that’s absolutely the case here. The Urwald is every fairy tale forest, but it’s its own place as well. Both the Urwald and Samara had a wonderful texture to them.

4. The way Jinx both uses fairy tale tropes and plays with them. In the end, the story is fresh and original, but the way Blackwood weaves in the images and language of fairy tales, without calling on any one specifically, adds a layer of depth that would otherwise be missing.

5. The magic. It’s thought through–in fact, I found it one of the best systems of magic I’ve come across in some time. It’s not lazy, which I hugely appreciated. In short, I was both convinced and enchanted by it, and by the way the magic of the Urwald itself interacted. And the way Jinx’s particular perception of the world works–it’s a lovely concept and it’s done in a really neat way.

6. This whole book is about finding your way in a world that’s difficult, that isn’t always obvious. It’s about who to trust and why, and listening to your heart–not in a cheesy way, but practically and meaningfully.

7. The writing. It’s deft, assured, full of great dialogue. I’m trying to pick out a particular passage to quote and can’t find one, because the whole thing is so strong. This is not watered down in the slightest, but it’s not self-consciously literary either. Here’s just a tiny taste: “He stared around in wonder. Above the workbench were shelves with jars, bottles, and boxes. Stacked in between them were more piles of books–mostly leather bound, some of them scaly. Jinx thought they might be bound in dragonskin. It all looked exactly as a wizard’s workroom ought to look, and Jinx could feel magic dripping all over everything.”

In short, the only thing I wanted from this book was more, and I’ll get that since it’s the first in a series (more Sophie, please! Sophie is awesome!). Highly, highly recommended for fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Megan Whalen Turner, and Frances Hardinge–or, you know, ANYONE.

Book source: public library
Book information: Harper Collins, 2013; middle grade fantasy


Filed under bookish posts, reviews

19 responses to “Jinx by Sage Blackwood

  1. I was sad last month, because no one was paying attention to Jinx, and I really really liked it, so it’s great to see more reviews of it out and about!

    And Yes! Sophie is made of awesome.

    • Maureen E

      Yay! And I kind of want Sophie from Howl and Sophie from Jinx to sit down and have tea and discuss the trials of their respective husbands.

      • Sage Blackwood

        Oh, that makes me laugh!

        Thanks for your kind words, Maureen. And for yours, Charlotte. I did not remember that the main character of HMC was named Sophie, until my brother pointed it out.

        • Maureen E

          Thank you for the lovely comment! How funny that you didn’t remember that, since they’re so much of the same type. Simon and Howl are also a bit alike too, it seems to me. (I mean the comparison in the best possible way–books that remind me of books I also love are always great.)

          • Sage Blackwood

            Especially funny since I’m sure I’ve read HMC (and every other DWJ book) at least 12 times. But the protagonists’ names never seem to stick with me somehow. Maybe because her characters are so much themselves that the names sort of slip past.

            Or maybe I just have a lousy memory :-).

      • I had this exact same thought as I was reading it!

        Brilliant review Maureen. And yes everyone should read this.

  2. I find the cover to this a bit visually overstimulating, so I’m glad I have your review to nudge me to forge on past that. My first thought was of Diana Wynne Jones when I read the extract that you picked – I hope to savor this on a summer day sometime soon!

    • Maureen E

      I’m not wild about the cover but it’s very on point for the kids’ market these days. (See also the new cover of Goblin Secrets, which is so sad after the gorgeous watercolory original.) I hope you enjoy it!

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  4. Twenty years ago I ran a computer camp for Appalachian kids using old Apple (not Macintosh) computers, and among the software programs we used were the “King’s Quest” series. Jinx strongly reminded me of one of these in which an evil wizard has kidnapped a boy to do his chores, and the boy must find a way to use the wizard’s magic to free himself. Using the wizard’s nap-time–always exactly thirty minutes–the boy first learns to climb down the treacherous path from the wizard’s mountaintop to gather ingredients for potions. Eventually he slips a potion into the wizard’s food–a bowl of porridge stolen from the Three Bears’ house–that turns the wizard into a cat. No plagiarism here, but many parallels. Good game! Good book!

    • Maureen E

      Eric, that’s fascinating, and very cool! It’s always fun to find those similarities between things you enjoy.

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