Blackbringer (Faeries of Dreamdark, Book #1)
Fantasy / Middle Grade
447 pages (paperback)
When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself- the creator of the world- she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer?
Rating: 4.5 / 5
I did a double-take when a Goodreads friend recommended Blackbringer for my fairy novel “market research” project. For some reason, I was under the impression that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was Laini Taylor’s first novel. (It’s actually her fourth.) And since I’d been meaning to read Taylor’s work for a while, Blackbringer went to the top of my TBR list. Well, I’m now grateful I made that choice, because this was such a treat!
Blackbringer introduces readers to Dreamdark, a modern-day forest tucked away from human knowledge and teeming with magic-wielding faeries, hedge and scavenger imps, and djinn. One of the faeries, Magpie Windwitch, has devoted her life to hunting devils in the human realm. When Magpie and her flock of talking crows track down an opened devil’s bottle once sealed by the Djinn King, she knows something is terribly wrong. Her search takes her back to Dreamdark, where she reunites with old friends, meets new ones, and must contend with a suspicious new faerie queen and the standoffish Djinn King himself. But how can she – a tiny faerie – defeat something that is no mere devil, but a vindictive, ravenous evil that threatens to destroy Dreamdark and the world beyond?
Within a couple chapters, I fell in love with Blackbringer and its rich world-building. The history of Dreamdark and its faeries, and the origin story of how the djinn created Earth, plays a crucial part of the story. Yet it’s sprinkled methodically throughout, and readers learn everything they need to know as the plot unfolds. And Laini Taylor’s writing style… Gosh, it took my breath away! Fluid, precise, and lyrical, all without becoming too sophisticated for a young audience. Her grace with language bolstered everything from Dreamdark’s lushness to the faeries’ ethereal wings and garb, to the mysteries of the Djinn King and the “tapestry” holding the world together. Occasional illustrations from Taylor’s husband Jim Di Bartolo also accentuate the story’s charm.
And the characters! Magpie’s a sweet yet spunky tomboy who’s eager for adventure and loyal to everyone she cares about. The crows, especially Magpie’s mount Calypso, entertained me with their comedic relief and devotion to their beloved huntress. Still others like Magpie’s childhood friend Poppy Manygreen and the persistent prince Talon Ratherstring are well-rounded and memorable in their own way. Plus, aren’t the names adorable?? They match the playful spirit of Dreamdark, and are perfect for a Middle Grade fantasy.
The Dreamdark faeries are more of the Tinkerbell kind than the dark fey folk of Julie Kagawa’s The Iron Fey series. They’re tiny, winged, and ethereal in appearance, with a range of magical talents. They’re also curious, nature-connected, and zealous fighters. You wouldn’t want to mess with Magpie and crew if you too were the size of a thumb! Taylor also takes advantage of the Dreamdark faeries’ flying abilities by making it part of the action. Swooping, darting, and other aerial-robics turned fights and chases into breathless scenes that played like a movie in my mind’s eye, which only fueled my adoration for the book even more.
The only thing I wasn’t always keen on was the omniscient point of view. The story isn’t told entirely from Magpie’s perspective, and sometimes Taylor switches back and forth between POV characters during a single chapter. I don’t mind novels with multiple POV characters as long as the viewpoint switches at a logical endpoint, like the end of a chapter. Omniscience, however, doesn’t always prepare readers for those character-to-character transitions. But there’s a bright side to this double-edged sword: Had Taylor not used omniscient POV in Blackbringer, I wouldn’t have grown to love the secondary characters so much. So, it’s a teensy bit hard for me to say she should have avoided that approach. 😉
Which explains the overall grade I’ve awarded Blackbringer. This is a delightful flight from start to finish, with a whimsicality akin to the Harry Potter series, Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, and Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy. It may be geared more for pre-teens, but older teens and adults will also appreciate the sophisticated world-building and the poetry in Laini Taylor’s prose. Actually, I almost feel ashamed for not reading Taylor’s work sooner! I’m absolutely game for her second Dreamdark novel, Silksinger. As for her more well-known series… Guess which YA fantasy I’ll review next? (Hint: It’s mentioned in the first paragraph of this review.)
Have you read Blackbringer? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.