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Review: BLACKWOOD by Gwenda Bond

 

Okay, first off – I’m Canadian. I know precisely zilch about Roanoke Island or the Lost Colony. I did read a WikiPedia entry, though, and it got me thinking – a disappearance of more than a hundred people is a helluva thing back in the 1500’s, but it was a plausible thing. Anything could have “disappeared” the colonists, right? (Like maybe another Imperial power at the time … just sayin’) The only time I’d ever heard of the word “Croatoan” was when I played the online RPG City of Heroes.

Buuuuuut … the overnight disappearance of the same number in modern America? Well, that’s just something I HAVE to read. (Also see a movie. Dear movie producers – work a deal for the film rights to BLACKWOOD by Gwenda Bond. Trust me. Also, don’t hire Kristen Stewart to be Miranda because of what she did to Rob Pattinson.)

Truth be told, I didn’t carry any previous knowledge of the mystery as I started reading. This is a good thing because I didn’t want anything to cloud my take on how the author could make such a massive disappearance plausible in in the here and now.

BLACKWOOD by Gwenda Bond is a creepy little tale that starts off with a possible hallucination and introduces the reader to Miranda Blackwood – a teen who is basically a pariah in the community due to the superstitious nature of the residents. She’s the curse-bearer. Roanoke Island is cursed, you see. Because more than a hundred people just went missing in the 1500’s and more than a hundred just went missing last night.

Miranda’s drunken father included.

So Miranda can see things. It makes sense, therefore, to introduce a love interest who can hear things. Enter Phillips Rawlings – he’s the son of the Chief of Police and he’s been shipped off the island to reform school because of the voices in his head. He’d been mean to Miranda once upon a time. Naturally the two just have to fall for each other – such is teen romance. Gwenda Bond makes it work, though. Both characters are interesting and entirely believable. The plot carries the reader along at a fairly decent pace and what I really enjoyed about the book was how Gwenda painted a rich picture of Roanoke Island and it’s residents. There are colorful characters in this book. There’s surprises aplenty and at the heart of things is Miranda – a likeable protagonist from the wrong side of town. A girl who at the start of the book is more mother than daughter to her drunken dad. Yet she possesses a quiet dignity that she wears throughout the story and you can’t help but cheer her on as she and Phillips unravel the mystery.

Plot twists. Folklore. A hundreds year-old mystery with a modern twist. Blackwood is a solid read and a breath of fresh air for those of us who are dead dog tired of brooding vampire boyfriends and shape-shifting were-things.

 BLACKWOOD is published by Strange Chemistry Books and will be in bookstores all over the place on September 6, 2012.

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© 2016 Sean Cummings