Blackwood by Gwenda Bond Book Review

Being a complete and total history nerd, I was that kid in class who would totally sit up straight and pay attention during the interesting things like The Salem Witch Trials, the Inquisition, and yes, the whole Roanoke mystery. Which okay, basically what happened is, these very early settlers were chilling out on Roanoke Island and were kind of isolated, right? So, this guy John White leaves the island to go hang out in England for a little bit. Then three years later he comes back and EVERYONE DISAPPEARS! All he can find is a tree with Croatoan carved into it. Blackwood by debut author Gwenda Bond takes on that part of history, but puts it in a modern day setting, like the whole book takes place in modern day Roanoke and y’all, all I can say is I am freakin’ pumped a YA author has FINALLY taken on the Roanoke mystery, that noise is FASCINATING.

Blackwood Gwenda Bond Book Cover

Instead of being super lucky and the one who will save everyone, the girl people fall all over to please, main character Miranda Blackwood inherits a curse. You see, the residents of Roanoke kind of think that the Blackwood family had a large role to play with the original disappearance of the settlers. So, Miranda grows up being totally alienated and bullied, but instead of being a sad sack of bones, she grows a thick skin and has a dignified inner strength that I admired. When history repeats itself, and over 100 people disappear into thin air AGAIN, it is up to Miranda and kind-of-sort-of love interest Phillips (a boarding school boy who just came back to the island) to set things to rights. What they uncover is a vast alchemical conspiracy, and well, you’ll have to actually READ Blackwood to find out how it all plays out.

Like I said above, I liked Miranda as one of the main characters of Blackwood. The story goes back and forth between Miranda and Phillips. Miranda is very much a no-nonsense sort of girl and does the best she can with the lot she has been dealt in life. I like that she tries to overcome her genetics and her curse to do what is right, even if she may be fated to betray everyone. I was not so keen on Phillips at first and it took me awhile to warm to him, because he’s described as being kind of a jerk in the beginning. However, once we get to the heart of why Phillips seems like a jerk and learn about his pranking attics, he’s quite endearing. I thought he provided an interesting counter and balance to Miranda’s character. Phillips is not at all cursed and kind of a golden boy, if that makes sense. YET, he also has this paranormal ability. Plus, the banter between Miranda and Phillips is TOTALLY adorable.

I liked that Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood explored good and evil and whether they are inherent traits or not. Like, for instance, there is main character Miranda who is kind of sort of CURSED and might end up betraying Phillips and doing some evil. Will she be able to fight the evil within? That’s kind of one of the central questions of the book. Then we have Phillips whose family legacy is light and hope, however there’s really no question over whether Phillips will do the right thing or not. I wish that Phillips had been a little more nuanced as a character, as far as good and evil goes, but I still ended up liking him, if that makes sense. I did, on the other hand, identify with Miranda Blackwood much more because she actively tries to fight her family reputation and is a complicated lady. To me, that makes her interesting to read about.

Unfortunately, Blackwood was not exactly a perfect read for me. I felt that some of the transitions were a bit clunky. When the story switched from Miranda to Phillips, my attention waned. I also found myself confused during some of the action scenes and confused as to what some of the character motivations were. Now, I did read an e-galley, so perhaps this doesn’t happen in the final version (which I will be purchasing in December). I guess, I would have liked a smoother sort of story.

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond takes on history’s most interesting lore with intriguing characters. Unfortunately, the writing wasn’t quite perfect, but I thought the character of Miranda Blackwood made up for that. As this is Bond’s first book, I’m looking forward to what she comes out with next and am optimistic. I think that if you like history, curses, alchemy and characters up against the odds, you might like this one and should definitely give Blackwood a chance.

Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley

Other reviews of Blackwood by Gwenda Bond:

Feeling Fictional – “a story that will keep you gripped and make you desperate to uncover the mystery”

Smexy Books – “I did find the overall storyline interesting enough to keep me reading until the very end

Book Den – “I was also pleased to discover Blackwood is a stand alone novel

About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. Dude. Young April and young Jamie would have been the two nerdlets sitting in the front of classing listening to all the history things. SO fascinated by it all. I geeked out so hardcore when we went to Jamestown and Williamsburg a few summers ago. Luckily my stepdad is a huge history buff sooo I always learned cool things from him and he always added something nerdy to our vacations

    Never heard of this one but you had me at least intrigued from the first paragraph!

    • With all the hours we have logged in g-chat conversations how did I never know you that you are a fellow history geek? I mean WHAT THE WHAT.

      I want to go to Williamsburg sooooooo bad.

      Also your stepdad is legit.

      And yay for intriguing with my words!

  2. I used to gripe about being so fascinated by the histories. I felt ashamed to be a nerd rather than priding myself on it because history IS SO COOL. And anyone who says different now gets the bird. Roanoke seems to get passed up a lot which is why I was flippin’ excited for this one. Then I started noticing some negative reception and my excitement was snuffed out. IT HAS BEEN KINDLED ONCE MORE. I like adorable bonds and interesting modern twists, so yes, I will stop being a coward and finally read this book.

    • Man, I hear you on being ashamed to be a nerd. Like, I was never secretive about liking books or being in the smart classes, but my friends were all like blah blah you’ll never get a date being smart blah blah. Of course, they were wrong, but still that shit sticks with you.

      Yeah, it has had a rather negative reception. I mean, I liked it BUT it was not perfect by any means.

  3. I’m a history geek too. I’ll have to check this one out. 😀 Thanks for the review!

  4. I’m glad you liked this, since all the other reviews said it was a hot mess of awful. I do love history, so I’ll leave this on my to-read list!

    • Christina, I can see the point with a lot of those reviews about it being a hot mess. But, personally, in my heart of hearts, I ultimately enjoyed the book despite a few drawbacks — namely the confusing transitions and action scenes. I hope you like it, but if you don’t, lol don’t blame me!

  5. I had an ARC of this one and yes… the writing and transitions were REALLY hard to get into. But overall I loved the story and the plot. The characters were pretty interesting and I really enjoyed seeing their interactions. Hopefully the final book is a little easier to read than the galley and ARC were!

    • I am glad I am not alone in this. Seriously, I think our feelings are very similar — about the writing and transitions, but liking the story and the plot. I found Miranda and Phillips to be interesting as well. 🙂

  6. It’s a shame this book wasn’t all that & more for you. Because wow, I love that cover and like you, I was totally into the witch trials as well.

    I’m commenting to ask if you ever read The Witch of Blackbird Pond? That was one of my favorite books growing up.

    Happy weekend!

    • The cover is fantastic. I mean, I did enjoy Blackwood for the most part, just certain technical aspects weren’t exactly my favorite.

      ALSO.

      Witch trials are the best.

      ALSO.

      I totally did read The Witch Of Blackbird Pond in like 5th grade and still own a copy on my shelves, I kind of want to re-read it now.

  7. Ha, April, you rock! I loved the mystery of Roanoke. As a kid, it was one of the first stories I wrote. Then I read this story that suggested that they fled in the middle of the night because they had heard that the Indians were planning to kill them, and they ended up in Florida. Not sure if it was based on a true possibility (it was told from the perspective of one of the colonists, so I think it was fiction.) Anyway, that story sort of ruined the magic and mystery for me. 🙁 This story might bring that magic back *Fingers crossed the final is better than the galley!*

    • I have never heard that story before, but that’s interesting that it posits they ended up in Florida. I can see where that would ruin the mystery though!

      I hope you do enjoy Blackwood if you decide to pick it up. 🙂

  8. I like the sound of the book but the cover is kind of creepy.

  9. Oh! This sounds great. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read what the book is about, but now I’m intrigued.

  10. Ah, I was hesitant about the book but your review convinced me that it really is not my thing. A pity since the cover is really nice.

    • Yeah, I think it’s good to know what your likes and dislikes are. Like, for me, I like all the stuff I mentioned except for the weird transitions, so it worked for me.

      Better luck next time, eh?

  11. Really great review! I also read this one and I felt very similarly. I agree with everything you said about the action scenes being a bit confusing. When everything exploded at the end, I got a little lost! But this was still an enjoyable read and I thought some of the dialogue was hilarious and awesome!

    • Yeah! The action at the end was soooo confusing, like with the explosions and her dad and I think some water. I agree, ultimately this was an enjoyable read and I liked the dialogue as well. 🙂

  12. I purchased this book awhile ago, because I’m hoping to see the author at Oblong books in December, but I still haven’t read it. I do love history (I was a history major in undergrad) so hopefully I will enjoy Blackwood.

  13. This book sounds FABULOUS. I love that it explores that sort of mysterious historical event (which I hadn’t heard of before, but now am so excited that I do). I’m pretty much a historical nerd, and stuff like this would definitely fascinate me. I have to check it out!

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