Jinx, by Sage Blackwood
published in 2013 by HarperCollins
Jinx is a boy who seems to live up to his name. Bad luck follows him like a shadow.
First, both his parents die. Then, his new stepparents want to be rid of him. Now, the plan to abandon him in the menacing maze of the Urwald goes awry, leaving both Jinx and his father lost.
It’s while they’re groping for a way out of the mysterious, spellbinding woods that Jinx runs smack dab into a wizard.
“The creature was a man, tall and thin, with twisty hair, yellow eyes, and a pointed beard. He was dressed in a long purple robe. His feet were bare, knotty, and he carried a basket — he had been harvesting mistletoe.”
After only a short, thorny conversation, Jinx’s nasty stepfather is seized by trolls and carted off into the forest, while Jinx finds himself apprenticed to Simon, the wizard.
Has his luck changed? Or is Simon up to no good; simply using Jinx for evil purposes?
Sage Blackwood’s page-turning fantasy contains magical potions and concealment spells, marauding werewolves and trolls, and one fiendish villain called the Bonemaster. In this magical realm, Jinx learns an extraordinary truth about himself — he is the Listener. He possesses a kind of magic everyone believes is nonexistent. In his new life with the wizard, Jinx ventures into forbidden worlds, becomes friends with a thief and a girl who are both under curses, loses his life and must venture into the unknown to find it again. How will his Listener skills help him cope with deadly peril?
Throughout his extraordinary quest, Jinx’s concerns about Simon also plague him. Is the wizard working for good? Or evil?
This is the first in a trilogy about Jinx and the magical world of the Urwald. Its blend of wit, adventure, and fantasy makes it a dynamic middle-grade read. I love the drily humorous banter that takes place between the characters, the peevishness of Simon, the cackling ambivalence of Dame Glammer, the rich language of the trees, the uncanny observations of Jinx-the-Listener. Plot twists and unknowns, as well as menace, mystery, and our easy affection for Jinx, are all compelling.
You should know that the Bonemaster is a seriously creepy character, and there are plenty of bones (obviously), plus blood, danger, death and General Evil Wizardry. For kids who’ve read Harry Potter or even Suzanne Collins’ middle grade series, Gregor the Overlander, this will not overwhelm them, so if that’s your 9-year-old, go for it.
The two other volumes in the series, Jinx’s Magic and Jinx’s Fire, have both been published now, so you can get all three and have one epic adventure in Urwald. Great series for both boys and girls.