So it’s been quiet around the ol’ blog as of late—I’m gearing up to launch the third full length Yancy Lazarus novel, Wendigo Rising, (due out around the end of October), so things have been hectic. Writing. Editing. Alpha and Beta Readers. More editing. Then a little dysentery thrown into the mix for good measure … ’cause who doesn’t want to cross dysentery off the bucket list, am I right? Anywho, while I was curled into a sickly ball, I read a great book—like a really, crazypants good book, which is definitely worth checking out.
Black Fall, The Black Year Series Book 1 (from the back cover): Jonas Black is a typical 16 year old, except for his lucid dreams, reclusive mother, and the two hulking bodyguards who walk him to school. When his father disappears, he’s forced to enter a dangerous, supernatural world hidden in modern day Manhattan, all while trying to come to grips with his unique heritage and keeping his battered MP3 player working. In the process, he’ll beat down a long-dead Frenchman, talk to a woman who has no tongue, find out what human ash tastes like, and learn to make friends who don’t want to kill him. The odds are against him, but he has a plan; if he’s lucky, he might even survive. A high-paced supernatural thriller with strong male and female characters, century-old feuds, and dark humor, Black Fall is the first of four books in the Black Year series by D.J. Bodden.
The MC: The primary main character is Jonas Black, a sixteen-year-old who is anything but typical. He’s near vampire royalty, though he doesn’t know it growing up. For most of his life, he’s been treated as a human, because a few abnormalities surrounding his birth, with no clue the supernatural exists. I know that sounds like the same clichéd backdrop for so many young adult books these days—special kid, with lots of powers, who just doesn’t know it—but in Black Fall, it comes across perfect.
And Jonas, despite being near royalty, certainly doesn’t have things easy. In fact, he learns everything in the hardest way possible, which is exactly what makes the book so much fun to read. Jonas is a good kid, smart—but not extraordinarily so—and able, with a stubborn streak that takes him through some outrageously awesome shenanigans. Though Jonas definitely falls into the young adult spectrum (which I’m not usually a huge fan of—generally too angsty for my tastes), the plot and secondary characters more than made up for it.
There’s a very full cast of secondary characters, several of whom are around Jonas age, but many of whom are older and far more experienced. There are other vampires and some fairly comical, yet awesome, werewolves. I had an easy time connecting with the human hunters—mostly an older lot of battle hardened veterans—who were really well done. The cast was on the large side, but never became unwieldy. At no point was I lost among the cast; I always knew who each of the side characters were because each had enough backstory and personality to make them pop—no easy thing to do as a writer.
The World: The world building was great. There’s nothing extraordinarily new and interesting in terms of the creatures inhabiting Black Falls—vampires, werewolves, demons, and a few extras—but all were really well done and unique enough to capture my attention and hold it. In this world the supernatural exist in plain sight, while also remaining hidden from view of most humans. The supernaturals work for, and are policed by, the Agency: a shadowy, covert organization that has a compact with the highest levels of human government—doing unpleasant black ops and, in return, being left mostly alone. There are also human hunters, folks who have stumble across the supernatural and actively seek to protect humanity at large.
The Story and Writing: Here is where this book really shines. The story and writing in this book make it stand out from the crowd. Bodden’s writing is clean and unpretentious in the best possible way: he’s a writer who knows the story he wants to tell and is able to execute that tale like a master craftsman, weaving in humor, excitement, and emotion in equal measures.
The story itself is a sprawling mystery, peppered with intrigue, and packed with lots of well written action and battle scenes. That’s also one of the things I really appreciated about this book: the battles were great, especially the epic war toward the end of the book. I love a good fight and Bodden knows how pull it off like a pro, and not just on a small scale. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with this book, and, more importantly, I was thoroughly entertained.
The Rating: Four and a half stars. A crazy-good debut in a market that often feels lackluster. Definitely worth reading. Buy it here: Black Fall