Audiobook Review: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

16 10 2012

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

Read by Stephanie Cannon

AudioGo\Strange Chemistry

Length: 8 Hrs 55 Min

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

Quick Thoughts: Blackwood is a strong YA tale with themes that permeate the label but are done in a unique and engaging way. The strength of this novel is in its characters. Bond created two engaging protagonist, and a slew of secondary players that are well developed. While some small pacing issues muddled the latter half, Bond pulls it all together with a satisfying conclusion that deftly blends history with the paranormal.

Grade: B

I really hadn’t planned on listening to Blackwood when I did. In fact, if it wasn’t for some poor planning on my part, and a misevaluation about how much time was actually left on another audiobook, I probably wouldn’t have listened to Blackwood until the end of this month. I was listening to The Twelve, a longish Post Apocalyptic Vampire thriller and was planning on moving out of the paranormal world for my next listen and take on a police procedural. Yet, I was running errands over the weekend and believed I had plenty of time left on The Twelve, yet, just as I was pulling into my driveway, The Twelve ended. At that point, I hadn’t transferred my next planned audiobook onto my MP3 Player and it just happened that Blackwood was next in my queue. It started automatically, and instead of pausing it, I continued to listen, and was instantly pulled into the mystery of Roanoke Island. Now, Blackwood is a paranormal Young Adult novel with a bunch of mystery and a romance. It really isn’t something I usually seek out. I don’t mind the occasional YA novel, but usually it’s a Post Apocalyptic tale or at least a dystopian, but I have always been fascinated by the disappearance of the settlers in Roanoke, as well as a lot of other historical anomalous disappearances. As a minor history buff, I understand that most of these occurrences have entirely logical reasoning behind them, but I love when fiction gives them an otherworldly edge. So, hooked in by the history, and a couple of interesting characters, I was enthralled enough with the opening sequence to Blackwood that I decided to complete the ride.

Miranda Blackwood has lived her entire life on Roanoke Island with the pressure of the Blackwood curse making her a target in her town, ostracized by her classmates, and labeled a freak. Phillips Rawling, son of the police chief, hears the voices of the islands dead in his head which caused him to lash out and be sent away by his family. Yet, when 114 townsfolk go missing, reminiscent of the historical claim to fame of the island, and Miranda’s dad turns up dead, the two teens find themselves at the center of an ancient mystery that just may spell doom for the entire town. I absolutely loved the first half of Blackwood. Gwenda Bond has created two engaging and interesting characters in Miranda and Rawlings. Much of the first half of the novel is mabout these two characters discovering more about themselves, and the history that weighs down on them. Sure, there was a lot of overused annoying YA themes to ignore, the beautiful outcast, the troubled loner and a mystery only they can solve, but Bond made it easy to look past these clichés and see the depths of her characters. Bond sets up her plot well, delivering some well executed twists. In fact, one of the twists frustrated me so, because the major issue I was having with the tale was resolved through this twist, whish I should have realized, but for some reason didn’t. Yet, once the characters were set up, and the big twists revealed, some of the shiny newness of the tale began to wear off. I have to congratulate Bond on an unique twist on the historical happenings, and her ability to wonderfully blend the history into her paranormal story, but I also found the pacing in these latter parts to be just a bit muddled. There is a decidedly creepy feel to the tale, but the explorations beyond the twist lost me for a bit. Luckily Bond is able to pull it all together with a strong ending that satisfyingly answered the mystery while giving the characters a full arch. Blackwood is a strong YA tale with themes that permeate the label but are done in a unique and engaging way. The strength of this novel is in its characters. Bond created two engaging protagonist, and a slew of secondary players that are well developed. While some small pacing issues muddled the latter half, Bond pulls it all together with a satisfying conclusion that deftly blends history with the paranormal.

Blackwood is narrated by Stephanie Cannon, and this was my first experience with her as a narrator. To be perfectly frank, I had mixed feelings about her reading. For the most part, I thought it was solid, with a few small quirks. Cannon uses a soft southern accent for Miranda, but its not consistent, there are moments where you feel like she forgot about the accent, but then remembered and, BANG! there it was again. When she did use it, I thought it added a nice bit of flavor to the reading. Cannon also had moments of awkward pacing where she felt like she was almost struggling to pull the words off the page. Yet, overall, I liked her reading. When she was on, she was really on, but sadly the few moments where she was just a bit off were definitely more likely to stand out. With a bit more consistency in her reading, Cannon would be an excellent narrator. While Blackwood works well as a Standalone, if Bond does decide to revisit these characters, I definitely hope that Cannon returns to bring them to life.

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