Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jinx by Sage Blackwood

The Chinese narrator's words emitting from the television are nonsensical  to my thick ears until I hear "Niu Rou." This means "beef" in Mandarin but my western brain hears the Roman emperor's name, "Nero." The sound comes from the back of the throat and whenever I try to pronounce it I either elicit a laugh or quirked brow. Such is my language life. Not so for Jinx where learning languages is like breathing in and breathing out. He's fluent in months and has taught himself six languages in about five years. Sigh... don't you love fantasy... you can do the unthinkable! Of course, Jinx has magical powers within himself that grant him this unique ability.

Jinx can read people's minds by seeing the colors of their thoughts. When his stepfather brings him to the Urwald forest to abandon him, Jinx is rescued by Simon, a crotchety wizard, who cares for Jinx and welcomes him to his home. He's absent minded and his motives for taking Jinx are questionable at times, but he's not cruel to Jinx and feeds him in exchange for his assistance. When Simon takes Jinx's magic from him without asking, Jinx goes on a quest to a powerful wizard to get it back along with the help of two friends, Reven and Elfwyn, who also need the wizard's help from curses of their own. This powerful wizard is evil and their success depends on how clever they are in manipulating him, but he has his own plans with no qualms at killing three kids.

I thought the start was slow. Jinx's stepfather is carted off by trolls and Simon is gruff and prickly. He's ornery toward Jinx. He's married to Sophie but they don't live together and she travels in a mysterious way to and from Simon's home. When he takes Jinx's magic it is unclear if he is an evil or good wizard. This adds wonderful tension to the plot. Simon doesn't do the right thing and it is a not really clear until the end why he did. The plot twist was nice and the untrustworthy adults with magical skills.

The stepfather scene where he crops up later is not resolved. The ending suggests a sequel and maybe it will be addressed then. I can't really get into the details or I'll spoil the fun but it is left hanging. Elfwyn's curse is like Ella Enchanted but not nearly as funny. I thought the author could have made her situations more humorous.

This entertaining book ends on a strong note with the pacing and tension picking up and some unexpected character revelations. While it has flaws, the world building exists and the characters are distinct. The witch is a strong supporting character using nicknames such as, "chickabiddies," and "chipmunk" for the children with a creepy grin that suggests she wants to eat them she teases about cooking them in the oven like the famed, Hansel and Gretel.

I'm always embarrassed by my poor language skills and am fascinated working with students who know two or more languages. They are like sponges when they are really little and it always takes longer to read than speak. The four and five years suck up the words like vacuums, not saying much at first. Then their brains sort it out and they start putting the sentences together. I wished I had been able to learn a second language at a young age. Maybe Jinx can give me a bit of that language magic. Lord knows I need it. Sigh...

Reading Level 5.3
3 Smileys

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