Hello everyone, long time no see!
It’s been a while. I’ve been in the most dreadful reading slump lately, as well as been focusing on doing some freelance work, upskilling and building my own website. However, I am happy to say that things have been going well and participating in this book tour was a much-needed route for me to get back into reading.
I’ve made a promise to myself this year that I will work more on reading inclusively, and so far, I’m not ashamed to say that it took me way too long to realise how discriminating the publishing world can be to authors of colour. I remember reading the synopsis of this book, and I was very intrigued with this story. It reminded me of some old classical fantasy books, particularly Harry Potter, but something about this book seemed very innovative and new. And boy, was I right. This book takes all the old fantasy tropes from the classics and gives them a new and even better spin.
Step aside Harry Potter, there is a new fantasy classic in town!
Yes, I said what I said.
Title: Amari and the Night Brothers
Author: B.B. Alston
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pub. Date: 19.01.2021
Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?
Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer try-out at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a were-dragon as a roommate.
Amari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids—who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives and are able to easily answer questions like which two Great Beasts reside in the Atlantic Ocean and how old is Merlin? Just getting around the Bureau is a lesson alone for Amari with signs like ‘Department of Hidden Places this way, or is it?’ If that all wasn’t enough, every Bureau trainee has a talent enhanced to supernatural levels to help them do their jobs – but Amari is given an illegal ability. As if she needed something else to make her stand out.
With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three try-outs, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.
Like I said, this book gives the genre of fantasy a whole new life. There are obviously parallels to older books, but I found this book to be so modern and innovative, I really fell in love with it. All the characters were fleshed out and engaging, the world-building was fantastic and very imaginative, and the plot was incredibly captivating. There was a lot of honesty and vulnerability in these characters too, and I also like how there is not really a strict divide between good and bad, as well as how the view of magicians is paralleled with the way Amari handles racism.
The main character and protagonist, Amari, struggles with being thought of as one type of person instead of who she really is – first, because of the colour of her skin, and after being introduced to the magical world, her powerful abilities. It also did not help that certain magicians’ atrocious deeds gave all others a bad name.
This way of thinking is everywhere sadly, but the author portrayed it in a way that was honest and vulnerable, which struck a chord with me and made me question how I see and judge others too. Assumption and prejudice have been used to devastating effects, and they are tools that we should not use lightly.
I also enjoyed the little bits of social commentary on social clash and racism and prejudice. It does not overshadow the magic, fantasy and adventure of the overall story, but there is just enough added that you can get a sense of what it is like to be growing up as a person of colour, and all the hurdles that come with that is real and raw. It is appropriate enough for younger readers in the sense that it will not dissuade them from continuing the story, and it makes a very thoughtful read for adults!
I loved Amari. She is kind, smart, funny, and one of my best protagonists that I have had the pleasure of reading. She is also quite easy to relate to – she acts just like you would expect to and asks all the right questions. Our protagonist is stubborn and defiant, but everything she does is out of love for her family and friends. She is an all-around great person. The only thing that holds her back is herself, which I can also relate to, as I do the same thing. But to see her work through that in such a beautiful and vulnerable way was inspiring. Amari’s family were also very precious, and I loved her friendship with Elsie. All characters, good and bad, were very well-done and I have no complaints!
The one thing I didn’t like was that at times there were some chapters that felt a bit rushed. Other than that, this book is perfect, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy books with great world-building and an imaginative twist on certain tropes and devices.
Thank you to WriteReads and B.B. Alston for the opportunity to read this book!
What other books have you read that add a unique twist to a genre? Let me know in the comments below!
Written by: Alexia DeBono
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