Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Review: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Released: September 6th 2012
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

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.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America's oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance. (from Goodreads)

I didn’t know much about The Lost Colony before starting Blackwood (had to do a few Google searches), but the book was a definitely an interesting take on everything that happened. However, I found the story a bit confusing and hard to follow at times and feel like it didn’t live up to its potential.

Miranda was a character I had mixed feelings about. She was an outcast on Roanoke Island; people avoided her because they believed her bloodline was cursed, so she had no friends, no other family members (besides her alcoholic dad) to look out for her and was often teased by people who wanted to humiliate her. In short, she had a hard life. But one thing I didn’t get was that she didn’t do anything about her situation. When people mistreated her, she sort of wrote it off as “well, that’s what they do!” She just accepted their behaviour, which struck me as odd, as she seemed like the type of person who could have stood up to these people if she wanted to. I liked her curiosity, her love of the theatre and her nerdiness, but I wished maybe she had shown more emotion, more anger or hurt or anything – I think it would have made her more believable. I felt like throughout the book, I was sort of detached from Miranda and all the other characters – I couldn’t get much feeling from them, and so couldn’t feel involved in the story. That being said, I think Miranda’s reactions when she was with Phillips were quite realistic (apart from her forgiving him so easily)  – she overanalysed everything she did and got worried that things would become awkward between them and didn’t know how to act.

Phillips was an intriguing character. His ability to hear the dead was very interesting – sometimes the voices overwhelmed him so he couldn’t understand what they wanted, but other times they seemed to be whispering pieces of advice, trying to guide him in the right direction. The ability ran in the family, and I would have loved to know more about it and perhaps where it originated from. Being the son of a police chief, Phillips also knew a lot of things that most of the islanders didn’t, which helped on occasion when trying to solve the mystery. However, I found Phillips’s interest in Miranda a bit strange. He hadn’t seen the girl in years, yet suddenly had this strong desire to protect her? The relationship was a bit rushed, I felt like they didn’t really know each other well, and didn’t get why Phillips was so obsessed with helping Miranda. They never really even spoke when they were children, except for the incident when Phillips humiliated Miranda, so this rapid relationship development didn’t really work for me. I did enjoy their scenes together, don’t get me wrong – but it all happened too fast for my liking.

Plot-wise, I think the book started off strong but got confusing when the 114 people who had disappeared (just like in history) reappeared. I was confused as how their disappearance was viewed by the islanders – it was explained to us, but the regular citizens, the ones who weren’t in the know like us readers, seemed to just accept this disappearance and reappearance with no explanation. What were the citizens of the island told about the people who disappeared? Why did they so easily welcome them back with no questions? It wasn’t explained and I felt like this messed with the story, because there’s no way anyone would just accept such an event without wanting answers. I was also confused about what happened to the original lost colony – where exactly did they go? What happened to them? We were told very little about this, which affected the story later in the book, because I was wondering how on earth of all the things going on were able to happen. However, I did enjoy the way alchemy played a part in the story (though more explanation would have been nice) and thought it was very clever the way real people in history were included - it made the characters motivations and actions seem more real.

Overall, Blackwood had a great premise but I felt a little let down by the confusing nature of the story and the detached narration. However, I would recommend it people who like mysteries and who want something different and unique.

(Side note: the cover of this book is awesome. Very cool and clever, and relates to the book too. Love it!)


  1. I have been so bothered lately with books that don't explain things clearly. It just feels lazy to me. For that reason I think I'll skip this one.

  2. I really enjoyed this one but I can see where you got confused. I did have to read over parts to make sure I got it properly.

  3. The premise of this one sounds pretty cool, but I've been reading a lot of mixed reviews of it. I hate it when such a cool premise doesn't really pay off!

  4. I'm sorry to hear that it wasn't that good. I hate it when I can't connect to a character. Miranda sounds like she had potential to be a great character. Also the fact that it's so confusing isn't something I like. I like it when a story is explained. I will keep these things in mind, but I'm not sure if I will read this book very soon :)

  5. I love the cover too! It's very impressive. The story sounds a bit confusing, though.

  6. Oh no I have this on the TBR pile but must admit I've been put off by some bad/average reviews it does sound confusing and there's nothing worse than if a books confusing because then it doesn't flow properly and allow you to get properly absorbed in the book!

    Oh and on a side note I hope your really enjoying uni! :)

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