Tuesday, January 5, 2021

MG Fantasy review of Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston 

Format:  E-ARC 
Publisher:  Balazer & Bray
Number of pages:  416
Publishing:  January 19th, 2021
Source: Netgalley via Sparkpress

Opening Lines:  "I'm sitting in the principal's office.  Again."  

Amari attends a private school where she is being bullied and teased by her classmates, but today was the last straw.  After one of the girls makes a comment about her missing brother, Amari gives her a tiny shove, a decision that she instantly regrets.  Amari worries that her actions might add to her mom's burden, as if being a single mom and working twelve hour shifts at the hospital isn't enough, now she has to contend with Amari loosing her scholarship because of the school's zero tolerance policy.  Plus they're both still reeling over Amari's brother Quinton's disappearance six months ago.  

Then a mysterious sequence of events occur, an email appears in Quinton's inbox, a man shows up at their door telling her Quinton left her a briefcase and she learns that she's been nominated for the same summer leadership camp that Quinton attended.  Upon arriving at the Vanderbilt Hotel for her summer orientation, Amari learns that her brother was actually working for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, an elite magical organization that is the link between the known and hidden.  She learns everything she ever thought about magical creatures is real, dwarves and mermaids do exist, just that the bureau keeps them hidden from the rest of mankind.  At first, Amari only joins because she want's to gather as much information as she can about her brother's disappearance, but then she begins to see this as an opportunity to learn more about herself.  While at school, Amari makes friends with her roommate, Elise who is one of the last weredragon's in existence, and Dylan Van Helsing, who is the brother of Maria and Lara Van Helsing.  The Van Helsing's are one of the most famous legacy families at the school.  Maria was Quinton's partner and together they made up team VanQuish, that is until they both went missing.  As a new recruit to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, Amari undergoes two ceremonies, where she receives the highest possible badge, achieving a moonstone, and her enhancement reveals that she is a magician, something that has been deemed illegal within the bureau.  Initially, the bureau planned to lock her up but Amari proves to be more valuable for her skills and is allowed to continue with her training and studies, as well as to compete in the special agent tryouts.  Amari hopes that she will be able to get closer to the agents who knew her brother the best, and figure out a way to find her brother.  At the same time, Amari will have to contend with an evil magician bent on recovering an item of  immense destructive powers that was taken from him.  

Amari and the Night Brothers has been described as a contemporary real world fantasy, a description that seems to fit it perfectly.  Here we find technology weaved with magic, a sort of Men in Black school of agents with supernatural abilities, cool gadgets like sky sprints and stunsticks and trainees eager to pass their tryouts.  The magical system includes illusionists, technologists, weavers, even a weredragon who once her skills reveal themselves can breath fire.  There are many hints or nods toward other books.  The Peter Pan type feel when Amari was flying aboard the ship, the Harry Potter themes of a magical school,  a girl unaware of her hidden magical talents, a ceremony akin to the sorting hat but with a magical artifact, even a challenge that reminded me of one from The Goblet of Fire.   There's even the distinction being made between legacy families and those who are at the school based on merit. The sort of snide derogatory comments that Lucius Malfoy is known for.  It's really easy to see why Amari and the Night Brothers has already been optioned by Universal Pictures.  

Ah but there is so much more to the story, there's characters with questionable motives, a horrible betrayal, and a main character that is relatable and will capture your heart right away with how loyal she is to her friends.  A girl who despite being full of insecurities, desperately wants to make her brother proud.  Most of all, I really like how each chapter has an element that leaves you hanging for the next, the knock at the door, the visit from Quinton, each chapter leading into the next, which would be torture as a read aloud because it would make it so hard to find a stopping point.  Truly an exciting debut that deserves all the praise, I eagerly await the next book in the series.    ** Thank you to Netgalley and SparkPress for my review copy. **

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