Pretty much everything here originally appeared at my actual blog: By Singing Light. I particularly focus on upper middle-grade and young adult books. I also enjoy adult genre books, especially speculative fiction.
Pure Magic is the second full-length book in Rachel Neumeier’s Black Dog series, following the “Black Dog Short Stories” that were released earlier this year. Black Dog, the first book in the series, was published by Strange Chemistry and following the fold of that imprint, Neumeier is planning to self-publish the rest of the books in the series.
We have several pov characters in this one, including a new character named Justin. Sometimes adding or changing a point of view character between books is tricky, but this worked well for me. We still get Natividad and Alejandro’s points of view, especially Natividad’s. And there’s a nice echo in the opening of Justin’s point of view of the beginning of the first book.
I also loved the way Justin’s particular relationship to magic gives us a better sense of how the magic in this world works. And it’s so neat and unusual–how many other books can you name where magic manifests as math? The way he and Natividad have different kinds of strengths and weaknesses worked really well for me. Not only the differences in training, but the inherent qualities of the way they perceive and work with magic.
And for Natividad, the way she has taken the training and grounding that her mother taught her, and then changed and experimented with it was really interesting to me. I think she’s a fascinating character anyway; she has a quiet strength that sometimes hides how much she really understands and how stubborn she can be. This also makes sense within the context of the black dog world and her role in it, but I really liked seeing the way she interacts with the other characters.
I also continue to like the romance; the dynamics are a bit weird–or not something I would enjoy in other circumstances, perhaps. But for me the characters make it work. I like that Natividad knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to be clear about it. And Ezekiel shows here that he is willing to learn from the times he’s messed up in the past.
This is also a story that’s dealing with the aftermath. Not only from the events of Black Dog, although that’s certainly there, but from the backstory of the vampires and the Blood Kin. In its own way, it’s an after-the-war story, and part of what drives the plot of this book is the fact that it’s not quite as over as people thought.
There’s a lot going on plot-wise, but the real focus stays on the characters. Rachel Neumeier is excellent at writing internal landscapes and dilemmas, the push and pull of emotions and influences. It’s not melodramatic, but we get a very clear sense for why the characters make the choices that they do.
I will note that I read a review copy and so I’m not sure if this is true in the final version, but both Zinaida Alexandrova and Justin’s grandmother’s last names were missing the final -a that Russian female familial names have. It’s a little thing, but of course I did notice it. (Again, not sure if this was fixed for the final version.) However, I appreciated that there’s a sense of global politics in the story, not only focused in the immediate issues of the Dimilioc wolves.
I highly enjoyed this one, most intensely for the characters, but also for the world and the descriptions of magic. I’ll be looking forward to the next.
Book source: review copy from author
Book information: 2015, self-published; YA