When an orphan boy comes into contact with wizards and learns of his own magic, he --- and life as he knows it --- is changed forever. That tale might sound familiar, but it’s quite different from any other “boy-meets-wizard” story you’ve heard before. Sage Blackwood’s JINX does tell a coming-of-age journey, involving a tween boy who discovers his magical powers. At the same time, JINX delves into the realms of fairy tales, magic, wizards and more, complete with a relatable and courageous hero and an excellent supporting cast.
"By making her heroes and villains --- and their experiences --- multi-dimensional, Sage Blackwood creates a solid foundation for an intriguing series."
Deep within a mysterious, dark forest called the Urwald lives young Jinx, a boy who resides with his step-parents (his mother and father died years ago.) Unfortunately, his step-parents aren’t too fond of the young boy and decide to abandon him within the Urwald. When Jinx’s stepfather makes to leave Jinx in the woods, the pair is confronted by a wizard, who offers to buy the boy. Perhaps he notices something special in Jinx, who has the unique ability of “seeing” others’ feelings in different shapes and colors. Before the wizard can pay up, though, Jinx’s stepfather is carried off by trolls --- leaving Jinx with no one to guide him except this unknown wizard, whose name is Simon Magus.
Jinx’s relationship with Simon proves contentious, to say the least. Secretive and short-tempered, Simon nonetheless takes Jinx into his own home and provides the boy with a job: Cleaning up after the wizard. Simon forbids Jinx from entering Simon’s rooms, though, which the curious boy naturally can’t endure. Eventually, Simon relents --- despite his wife, Sophie's, distaste for magic --- and takes Jinx on as his apprentice, but when Simon performs a peculiar spell on the boy that deprives Jinx of his “seeing” talent, Jinx is determined to get his powers back...at any cost.
Like the Harry Potter series, JINX finds the hero bonding most closely with two others of his same age group --- another boy and a girl. Reven, Jinx’s male companion, has quite a few unsolved mysteries about him, some of which may extend beyond the borders of the Urwald --- or lurk within the forest itself. Similar to Hermione, Jinx’s friend Elfwyn is a clever, curious, young girl, but Blackwood distinguishes her from Ms. Granger by making this red-cloaked lass a play on the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. Elfwyn does go to visit her granny, who turns out to be an old witch named Dame Glammer, who travels by hopping about in a butter churn.
JINX provides a lifelike lens through which the reader can examine a magical world. For most of his life, Jinx has been buffeted around by what others want, what others need. It’s inspiring and refreshing to see him finally take charge of his own life after living under others’ thumbs for so long. The reader cheers him on as Jinx defies Simon’s restrictive rules and breaks out on his own. When he does so, Jinx both suffers and finds joy, a realistic depiction of what happens when young people begin to explore the world to fulfill their own wants and needs.
In JINX, Sage Blackwood portrays her heroes and villains not as one-sided, “good-or-evil” individuals,” but people with conflicting motives and opportunities. These depictions make JINX a compelling read that, although it takes place in a fantasy realm, could find its characters transplanted --- minus the magic, of course! --- into our world. For example, Elwyn’s grandmother, Dame Glammer, recurs throughout the story as a potential friend and foe to each character. Jinx sees her as a welcoming figure when she visits Simon, but the witch also provides Simon with herbs to perform a spell on Jinx. Simon himself is perhaps the best example of this paradox. He protects Jinx from danger, takes him in from the Urwald and teaches him about magic, but can also treat Jinx rudely and does not appear to have much affection for him. By making her heroes and villains --- and their experiences --- multi-dimensional, Sage Blackwood creates a solid foundation for an intriguing series.
Reviewed by Carly Silver on January 30, 2013