Blog Tour! Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction

Similar to: The One With The Boy Wizard That We Don’t Talk About Any More – but better!

Could be enjoyed by: Literally everyone

Publication date: 21st January 2021

“So this is Christmas

And what have you done…”

Well John Lennon, I have yet again overloaded myself with stress as Christmas looms large and as usual I am thoroughly unprepared. Between work/volunteering/shopping/house renovation/looking after one broken boyfriend etc. I also found myself helping to coordinate the Book Blogger Novel of the Year Awards, being a judge myself aaaaand I signed up to a blog tour without looking at the date and then realised my spot was less then a week before Christmas Day. So, I am hurridly trying to navigate this God-awful block editor thingy whilst trying to do justice to one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time.

(Thank goodness it’s a good one!)

You see, Amari and the Night Brothers is just SO AMAZING that I even finished reading it during the tail end of a migraine. It is fun and exciting and has great representation and it’s fast paced and inventive and clever and thoroughly, utterly engaging. It’s the story of Amari Peters, a young black girl living with her mum who is struggling to make ends meet. She’s a misfit – bullied at school, trying to be good for her overworked, underpaid mother and worried about her brother Quinton who has recently gone missing. However, a super-weird, mysterious event leads her to discover a whole world that she didn’t know about – full of magical encounters, mysterious beasts and a terrifying battle for power that Amari ends up being right at the heart of. But as a total outsider, how will Amari cope? Is she always destined to be a misfit?

Answer: you’ll have to read the book to find out. This is a spoiler free zone!

I will say though that it’s not always easy for Amari for numerous reasons but with some great friends and family she goes on one hell of an adventure. I loved the way that despite all of the obstacles, there was always someone there to help her out and this led to some fantastic representations of female friendship, male/female friendship WITHOUT falling in love, family bonds, sibling love, community… I could go on. There’s lots of staying true to yourself even though everyone else thinks you’re weird, finding your tribe (turns out that’s with a dragon) and choosing between good and evil. However, the book is never moralistic or preachy. Amari is such a likeable, realistic individual that her choices seem completely believable and true to her nature.

I loved that Amari was a black female character and there’s a really lovely foreward from the author explaining why her chose to represent her in that way. I noticed that in one chapter, a new character was introduced as being white and I found that slightly jarring – then I realised that’s because it hardly ever happens. So often, white is seen as the default so I loved seeing that assumption challenged. It was a tiny thing but it really hit home for me.

I thought that B. B. Alston did a fantastic job of world building – it must be so complicated to have to write about a magical alternate reality without doing a massive info dump but it was handled really well. So often, I read fantasy where creatures – and trust me, this book has a lot of ’em – are either over depicted, with paragraphs of descriptions that are too complicated to imagine or you’re not given enough detail, leaving you with a bit of a blank. However, I thought the characterisation was spot on. The pacing was great – ranging from fast to full throttle as the storyline progressed – and I was fully invested from start to finish.

Amari and the Night Brothers was a wonderful, inventive, fantastical journey with brilliant representation, fabulous characters and I was so engrossed in its magical spell that I simply couldn’t put down – even with a killer headache!

Five “where’s the paracetamol, I need another chapter!” out of five.

Amazing. Magical. Awesome. Real. Inspiring.

(See what I did there?)

Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Dave at The Write Reads and Egmont Books UK. Thanks everyone!

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

Professional Reader

I received a free e-copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley!

The Bear and the Nightingale is the story of a young girl living in Rus (modern day Russia). She has a quiet life in a rural village, despite the fact that she’s inherited her mother’s gift to see the spirits that protect their agricultural way of life. As Christianity begins to make the villagers forget their old gods, the power of the good spirits weakens and the village becomes threatened. Is Vasilisa strong enough to use her gift to protect her village?

I have to say first off that I absolutely loved this book – it’s perfect for this time of year when the nights are drawing in and you can sit in front of the fire to get lost in a world of dark snowy forests and evil spirits. Also, don’t be put off by my synopsis above – I found it really hard to capture the essence of this book because there’s just so much going on. There’s lots of different characters who come and go, the plot could frequently go in several different directions and you never know what is going to happen next.

It was really nice to read a proper fantasy story that didn’t feel like a children’s book. It was gritty and fast paced with a really interesting mix of Russian folklore that gave just the right element of creepiness. However, I think that the best thing about the story was how the author made it so completely evocative of a cold Russian village in the woods. I got completely lost in the storytelling and a heavy usage of Russian terms made the tale feel totally authentic, like a wizened old lady is telling you a cautionary tale from her childhood.

I thought initially that the use of Russian words might be off putting but I thought that the author got the balance exactly right – there was enough to add to the charm of the book but not enough to be confusing (there’s also a handy glossary at the end).

I really loved the main character Vasilisa. I thought that she was a really good strong female role model, especially as the book is set in a period where women were seen as property. This is referenced within the story and I loved her defiance to the status quo, her attitude and her bravery. All of the characters in the book were very well written and I found most of them to be a bit marmite – you either loved or hated them.

I don’t want to give anything away but there really is an epic ending. I was worried that I was getting very close to the end and that there would be dome kind of disappointing cliff hanger but everything came together beautifully (whilst still leaving enough room for a sequel).

I would love there to be further books about Vasilisa to explore her world (and the world of the spirits) further. I also wanted to know more about her brothers and sisters and to hear more about life in the palace. If I had one criticism of the book it would be that some of the secondary characters were written out of the main story a little bluntly.

Overall, I found the Bear and the Nightingale to be totally enchanting and captivating. I completely got lost in it and would highly recommended it. 

Overall rating: 9/10.