I first came across Jinx, by Sage Blackwood, when Melissa at Book Nut posted about the state of her TBR pile. The title looked interesting, and when I read the description, I thought, “I’d like to read this!”
In the Urwald, you don’t step off the path. Trolls, werewolves, and butter churn–riding witches lurk amid the clawing branches, eager to swoop up the unwary. Jinx has always feared leaving the path—then he meets the wizard Simon Magnus.
Jinx knows that wizards are evil. But Simon’s kitchen is cozy, and he seems cranky rather than wicked. Staying with him appears to be Jinx’s safest, and perhaps only, option. As Jinx’s curiosity about magic grows, he learns to listen to the trees as closely as he does to Simon’s unusual visitors. The more Jinx discovers, the more determined he becomes to explore beyond the security of well-trodden paths.
But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic—and magicians—can be as dangerous as the forest. And soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat.
I’ve always read a lot of middle grade fiction, especially fantasies and mysteries, and for me, the best middle grade reads are the ones that create a rich, complex world with equally rich and complex characters. It’s actually not such an easy thing to achieve with middle grade fiction – authors always have to stay aware of the age group for whom they’re writing but sometimes when they’re too focused on this, it can be to the detriment of the story they’re trying to tell. Books like Jinx prove that you can stay true to your audience without oversimplifying your narrative and characterizations.
I really enjoyed Jinx. The characters were delightfully real – as conflicted as anyone I know in real life. Jinx, the protagonist, is smart without really knowing how smart he is, smart in a survival-savvy way that was just such a joy to read. I also enjoyed how he stayed uncertain about the adults with whom he engages, waiting until they prove themselves before he makes a decision. Given his background, you really can’t blame him for holding back from really trusting anyone.
And the adults themselves, especially the wizard Simon Magnus, have their own inner conflicts and deal with their own uncertainties. They are perhaps not quite “all good”, in the way that none of us ever can be “all good”, and certainly not infallible.
The story moves along at an engaging pace, and the world of magic that’s revealed is a credible one, firm, solid, despite all the things about it that we – and the characters – don’t know. It’s a beautiful, finely detailed world, but at the same time, there’s so much that’s shrouded in mystery; part of the fun in reading was finding out more about this strange world of Urwald and beyond.
Jinx ends on a cliffhanger-ish type of ending, but this is a cliffhanger done right: we learn the ending to the particular story that we’ve been following, and at the same time, Blackwood entices us with details about what’s to come.
Which is to say, I’m very eager to read the next book in the series, and find out where Jinx’s adventures will take him next!