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Blackbirch: The Beginning (1) Paperback – 17 February 2020
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Welcome to Blackbirch. It's a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.
The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh's parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.
Amongst friends he's forgotten and a life he doesn't want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can't overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.
Kallie says it's an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren't the only gifted ones.
To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what's real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.
"I devoured this book! The intrigue grabs you from page one, and this air of mystery and magic carries throughout the whole story." - 5 Star Goodreads Review
"Blackbirch: The Beginning is the first book of 2020 to grab me from the very first page." - 5 Star Goodreads Review
"Loved it. The storyline gets you hooked from the first chapter, and the plot twists keep you guessing right to the end." - 5 Star Goodreads Review
"K.M. Allan's characters are well-rounded and the story had me hooked from the first page - I finished it in two days." - 5 Star Goodreads Review
"This is intriguing and intelligent YA fiction with the essential ingredients of goodies and baddies, magic(k), dreams, mysterious pasts and mysterious people." - 5 Star Goodreads Review
About the Author
- Publisher : K.M. Allan (17 February 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 212 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0648773000
- ISBN-13 : 978-0648773009
- Reading age : 14 - 18 years
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 1.22 x 21.59 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 244,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in Australia on 7 March 2020
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I think the first thing that captured me was the magic system, which is fascinating and diverse, with deep roots in the past and the place, and also in Josh's own personal history.
The second factor I really loved was the mystery. Or rather, mysteries, because there are quite a few: Why can't Josh remember his past? What has he forgotten? Who is Kallie and what are her motives? What's really going on in the woods? Who is the scarred man? These and other questions kept me reading. Some answers are given by the end of the story, others are only hinted at in this opening novel.
Finally, the town of Blackbirch itself, with its woods and its trees (and yes, I googled black birches and wintergreen oil and disappeared down that rabbit hole for a while) is almost another character in the novel. The black birches are everywhere, casting their ominous influence over every page.
So why four stars instead of five? Honestly, it's mostly just personal preference. I would have liked the writing to be a little smoother. It's not bad, just not my favourite style. I also found Josh hard to connect to at first, although as he's lost his memory, this is understandable. But he's a moody teenager, and this grumpy older woman has less patience for that than she used to. Finally, the character of Josh's friend Sarah seems a bit bland. But these are minor quibbles, nothing that spoiled my enjoyment or made me want to stop reading. And I loved the climax.
Blackbirch: The Beginning (clever title, by the way, and you won't see how clever until you read the book for yourself) is a great story, a really exciting debut from K.M. Allan. And I have a strong feeling that now the everything has been set up so well, Book Two will be even better.
Reviewed in Australia on 7 March 2020
Witchcraft is my favourite form of magic, and the magick in Blackbirch definitely falls under that heading. From the start, Allan creates an almost other-worldly town in Blackbirch. It almost felt like the town wasn’t quite in the 21st century.
To be honest, my favourite character was Eve, the girl who’s something of an outcast because of her fascination with witchcraft and the town’s history. There are some hints at the end of the book as to where her character arc is likely to lead and I’m really looking forward to seeing that play out (without spoiling too much, I think it’s going to get messy).
None of that is to say the other characters weren’t interesting. It took me a little while to warm to Josh, mostly because he spends a large chunk of the novel being mopey and a bit of a stick in the mud. But there are reasons why he was doing that, which come out later. Once he was a bit more involved in the action, I was able to get more invested in him.
I am definitely jealous of Allan’s ability to write a climax – there’s a fantastic buildup to a confrontation in the woods that I really enjoyed. And while most of the major plotlines are wrapped up, there are still plenty of opportunities for things to unfold in the coming books. I for one am really looking forward to it!
Top reviews from other countries
Technically a YA novel, it was still sophisticated and intriguing enough for this 52-year-old reader to thoroughly enjoy and relate to. Telling the tale of 17-year-old Josh’s return to his childhood hometown after the tragic death of both his parents in a car crash. But much more than just his family have been taken from Josh, most of his memories appear to be gone as well. Understandable amnesia caused by shock is the diagnosis of the doctors, but, as the tale unfolds and strange things begin to happen to Josh, the reader starts to realise there is something a lot more sinister going on.
The author writes well and is obviously comfortable creating believable and relatable teenage characters who are neither annoying nor sappy. I particularly liked the way she allows us glimpses into their internal thoughts and feelings which adds to the depth of the characters, although I have yet to make a connection with the character of Max. Very much a supporting act, I’m not sure what purpose he serves other than to eat any food he can lay his hands on and ferry the main characters around in his car. But this is only book one of the series so maybe the author had plans for Max to grow and develop into something more significant than the cypher he currently is.
Leaving aside the human cast, it is the town of Blackbirch itself that fascinated me the most. A place surrounded by a creepy wood of ancient black birch trees that are steadily encroaching on the township, it is impossible not to pick up on the sense of creeping unease. It is a town rich with a history of magic and witchcraft and Josh and his friends soon find themselves embroiled in old secrets and ancient powers that linger just beyond everyday life.
A short, quick read, Blackbirch is the perfect book for those looking for a few hours of escape and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Blackbirch is named after the blackbirch trees that surround the small town. It’s also a small town with a witch history making it quite the tourist attraction. But it’s not just tourists who believe in magic. Many of the townsfolk do as well. Josh is not a fan. He can’t remember the town or his old school friends but they remember him and want him to be the Josh of old. But there is something about this town Josh was made to forget. Finding out what he can’t remember will hurt more than just Josh. Along with his old school friends, there is a dream girl who is trapped, a witch girl who desires more magic, and a shadowy figure hunting Josh. If he doesn’t find out what he can’t remember more than just his past will be lost.
This is a fantastic book one. K.M. Allan paints a gloriously spooky world of magic and fear. The town of Blackbirch is a character in its own right. The young men and women of this witchy place are layered and well defined. The pacing is perfect for the tale. K.M. Allan does a great job of creating a creepy vibe that flows from every page. A great read for Halloween. I’m absolutely looking forward to book two.
Blackbirch is a touristy town that heralds a reputation of being a location for witchcraft and magick. His mother's friend, Grace, owns a store dealing in spell books, candles, herbs and other magical items. Eve, who believes in magick, and Sarah, who doesn't, are Josh's friends. Josh doesn't pay attention to any of it until he touches a magical item and then power he doesn't understand shoots through him.
To add to these circumstances, a girl named Kallie, who only comes to him in his dreams, warns him of impending danger and a sinister presence. Josh is driven to find the answers to his questions. And some mysterious force keeps drawing him deep into the woods toward a house that he's told doesn't exist. The mysteries keep mounting. What really happened to his parents? What caused the car accident. Why can't he remember so many things. Who can he trust?
The world building is terrific. Blackbirch is a town we'd all be fascinated by, a place we'd all want visit. The books ends with us needing to read the next in the series to get our own questions answered. This is a clean, and a true young adult book, though all ages will enjoy the premise. KM Allan has crafted an intriguing and mysterious story with more to come.