Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Number of pages: 304
Publishing: April 4th, 2023
Source: Sparkpress via Netgalley
Opening Lines: "When my best friend JP turned twelve, his parent bought him a phone."
Nic Blake and her father live in Jackson, Mississippi, soon to turn twelve, she's hoping that her dad will finally teach her how to use the "gift," so she can become a real Manifestor like him. But first she'll have to complete his task of catching a hellhound.
Nic's dad has been drawing out her training, perhaps concerned that she might view the gift as a quick fix to all of her problems, either way she is determined to prove to him that she is ready. For her birthday, Nic has also been invited to go to a book signing with JP. Aside from being her best friend, JP is one of the only Unremarkables she knows, someone without the knowledge or gift that Remarkables/Manifestors have. The book signing doesn't quite go as planned and soon Nic is finding out some hard truths about how her mother never abandoned her and that her father is on the run from Uhuru because he kidnapped her as a child.
Nic also learns that LORE has been searching for her, and because Nic's grandmother is the president of LORE, her dad's crimes are deemed far worse. At the same time, she finds out that she has a twin brother who has been in Uhuru with her mother all this time. When Nic's father is also accused of stealing the Msaidizi, a powerful weapon crucial in defeating one of Uhuru's most dangerous enemies, Nic embarks on a quest to find the allusive weapon and save her father before LORE removes all his memories as a punishment for his crimes.
Angie Thomas is primarily known for her contemporary YA books with black characters, and some of the previous titles included The Hate You Give and On The Come Up, which I enjoyed thoroughly. So, I was very excited to learn she had a MG fantasy series coming out. Her new series did not disappoint. It reminds me a lot of The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton or Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, so if you enjoyed these two books, I'm sure you'll enjoy Nic Blake as well. While reading, I still had the same feel of Angie Thomas' humor that I've come to enjoy from her books with lines like: "I can smell a hellhound from thousands of miles away. Wherever this thing is, it's filling the forest with a strong odor of boiled eggs and Fritos."
I really enjoyed both Nic and JP, they're fun characters. I also liked that despite being an Unremarkable, JP had a lot of skills he brought to their adventure too. Nic's mixed feelings about why her dad hid her mom and twin brother Alex from her were also understandable. She doesn't know if she can forgive her father, but also can't help being concerned about him. Also, while she's excited to find out she has a twin, she's also upset that he knows so much about their mom and Uhuru. Balancing some jealousy with wanting to get to know him better.
As a first book in the series, I was eager to learn about this new magic system, and to immerse myself in the world building. I felt there were enough details and explanations made so that the major distinctions between Unremarkables, Remarkables and where their magic comes from were clear. How learning to use the gift involves mojos and jujus to control the elements. There still feels like there is so much more to learn about Uhuru and the gift that I hope will be explored further in the next book. What I also enjoyed while reading the story were the cultural ties to African American folklore, history and mentions of slavery in terms that kids could easily understand. Topics like school shootings and police violence are addressed but not delved into great depth. It's a nice melding of magic, culture and historical elements mixed with a fast-paced adventure. But oh, to end on a cliffhanger...torture. Overall, I really enjoyed Nic Blake and the Remarkables and see lots of kid appeal.
** A huge thank you to Sparkpress for the E-ARC via Netgalley**