Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BLACKWOOD by Gwenda Bond

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Date published: September 2012
ASIN 9781908844071
Paranormal, mystery, young adult, horror
Reviewed by Gina
Obtained Via Publisher (Netgalley)

Miranda Blackwood has long held a belief that somewhere on Roanoke Island, most specifically in her bedroom and the closest therein is a portal to another world. Not that she shared that belief with anyone in particular. It was a belief she has held from the time her mother died. Perhaps that was the kernel that had her imagining a black ship sailing over the local theatre company’s production of The Lost Colony – the story of what happened to the original colonists of Roanoke. In the last minutes of the production Miranda spies the ghost ship and cannot hold back her concerns and fears. The rest of the cast and crew are less than impressed because they can’t see the ship and, well, Miranda has always been a tad odd. Things take a definite turn for the worst when the next day a number of the residents, 114 to be exact, disappear. What makes things even stranger is that number, 114, is the exact amount that disappeared from the original Roanoke Colony in the 16th century. Things become even more disturbing when Miranda’s father is found murdered.

When Phillips Rawling, the chief of police’s son who has been away at school hears of the strange goings on at the island he heads for home. Despite voices he hears in his head, voices he only hears on the island, he is determined to help Miranda solve the mystery of the missing islanders and her father’s murder. But things become stranger yet when Miranda’s father’s body disappears and a claim is made that John Dee has returned from the dead.

The blurb for Gwenda Bond’s debut book BLACKWOOD, immediately caught my attention. I remembered the story of how 114 people disappeared from Roanoke Island, the first colony on American soil, hundreds of years ago. To date no one has solved that mystery. I’m also a fan of time travels and mysteries and BLACKWOOD certainly seemed to fit the bill. The first few chapters completely caught my attention. The drama of the play, the reenactment of the long ago settlement and what happened, Miranda’s position in the theatre company and her seeming psychic abilities were the perfect set up for a really good paranormal mystery.

Sadly, after the first few chapters the story seemed to lose momentum. I’ve seen this happen with a number of debut authors where they seem to have a list of what is popular, the most sought after genres for reading and elements that will draw in readers. Rather than sticking with a premise or storyline all the elements seem to get thrown in. It wasn’t so blatant in BLACKWOOD but there was enough to pull me out of the story when the different elements popped up, such as what appeared to be a zombie element that while not called “zombie” was a reanimation of bodies.

Miranda’s reaction of her father’s murder was fairly non-existence. If she was numbed by it, it wasn’t shown. Another character does use her father’s death to explain why she is behaving a certain way but I didn’t see the emotion coming from her.

There was quite a bit of point of view shifting within the chapters with no break to indicate when it had happened. I would be reading along and all of a sudden something wouldn’t seem quite right, I’d go back and re-read a few pages to find it was someone else’s point of view. Simple scene breaks would take care of that and since this was an ARC hopefully it will be handled before the book is finalized.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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