Jinx by Sage Blackwood
Raised in the Urwald, Jinx knows that no matter what you never leave the path through the woods. So when his stepfather decides to get rid of Jinx, they leave the path. That’s when Jinx meets Simon, a wizard who agrees to take Jinx from his stepfather rather than letting him die in the woods. Jinx moves in with Simon, who makes incredibly delicious food and has only one rule, never go into certain rooms. Jinx has his own sort of magic: he is able to see people’s emotions as colorful clouds above their heads. He can also talk with the trees of the Urwald. But Simon does not believe he can actually do either. Living with a wizard brings Jinx into touch with other sorts of magic and soon he is learning about that magic too, though he doesn’t seem to be any good at it. Life is cozy and as good as Jinx has ever had, but it can’t stay that way. Jinx soon wants to explore the Urwald himself, which leads to all sorts of amazing adventures and deadly dangers.
Blackwood has truly invented her own fantasy world here. While she borrows from classic fantasies for some of her creatures: vampires, werewolves, wizards, and trolls, she has created her own rules for their world. By creating the Urwald, a living woods that takes knowing the laws to survive for any length of time, she has effectively created a smaller world inside a larger one. There are glimpses of the other parts of the world that are tantalizing. It’s a complex world that she has created, which makes it all the more delightful to explore.
In Jinx, Blackwood has created what seems to be a very simple character. Jinx grows throughout the novel not just in his age but in his perspective. At first he is just happy to have somewhere warm with good food, but quickly he becomes intrigued with the magic around him. Readers will immediately understand the Jinx is special thanks to his unique vision of emotions, but as they grow to know him more, they will discover he is just as complicated as the world he lives in.
Blackwood has written an impressive fantasy novel for middle grade readers that is both dazzling and dangerous. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Reviewed from library copy.