by Kimberlee Ann Bastian
Grades 8 and up
Reviewed from copy provided by author.
All opinions expressed here are solely my own.
Most of his life, Charlie Reese has been surrounded by a loving family and all the comforts of home. But when a house fire claims them, he and his cousin, Jimmy are sent to an orphanage in the heart of ‘Depression Era’ Chicago. A year later, Charlie’s life is shaken by yet another tragedy and with it comes the mysterious introduction of a secretive runaway, named Bartholomew. As Charlie begins to discover more about his new companion, he unknowingly becomes a participant in a two-hundred year old secret. Come the morning of the Black Blizzard, Charlie finds he must make a choice - flee the destiny laden at his feet or take on his responsibility and follow a path full of supernatural wonders.
This book was quite a bit darker than I normally read. What made this book for me were the two main characters, Charlie and Bartholomew/Buck. Charlie's grief and confusion seemed almost tangibile, and yet he continued to try to do the right thing, the kind thing, as his mother taught him. But he also recognizes early that there are things about Buck that don't make sense and he wonders if he can really be responsible for Buck. Buck, on the other hand, does not belong in 1930s Chicago and he desperately wants to stay with Charlie, even though he knows his presence is making Charlie's already difficult life more difficult. I wanted to know what happened to Charlie and Buck and that kept me reading.
The setting is beautifully presented. Life on the streets of 1930s Chicago was not an easy or even pleasant place to be and Charlie finds himself caught between two different gangsters and their demands. Charlie finds a way to survive and yet desperately wants to flee and establish himself somewhere else. Buck finds himself bewildered by the lifestyles and habits of those he meets, both the friendly and unfriendly. I found it easy to visualize the dirty streets and the challenge many faced just to survive.
The plot moved fairly quickly from the time Charlie and Buck meet through a variety of different experiences involving trickery, hidden agendas, and painful memories. While the book wasn't as uplifting as I would have hoped, it is definitely compelling and made me want to know what would happen next. The black blizzard didn't play as strong a role as I expected, my feeling is that it will play a bigger role in the second book, The Breedling and The Trickster, as we move toward a final confrontation. Overall, I found the book interesting and look forward to reading the sequel.
I'm glad I had a chance to participate in this blog tour. Be sure to check out some of the other posts for interviews at YA Novel Reader.
NOTE: The book does have quite a few grammatical errors, if you can get past them there is much to enjoy. Also, the book is definitely young adult or higher, some of the situations that Charlie and Buck find themselves in are more appropriate for more mature readers.