Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ARC Review: Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

Black Dog

Author: Rachel Neumeier
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Pages: Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Release Date: February 4, 2014

BLACK DOG by Rachel Neumeier takes the reader into a hidden world of magic, war, and shapeshifting that exists just behind the headlines of the human world. Think of it as Robin McKinley's SUNSHINE but with werewolves instead of vampires.

Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge--the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases--like for Natividad's father and older brother--Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad's mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister's Pure magic. Natividad's twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle


Black Dog has left me in an extra-ordinary dillema, I have not a clue how to rate it. I mean NOT A CLUE. Look this is good. Really good. But not gushing-fan-girling-i-am-smitten good - no it's an entirely different kind of good...

I was excited about Black Dog because quite a few of my reading buddies had recommended Neumeier's books to me, saying that I would love them, as a result quite a few of her books were put on my TBR-list. But for some reason or the other I never actually read anything of hers. The blurb of Black Dog, was interesting- but the reason I actually wanted the ARC was the author.
In fact, while the blurb of Black Dog does sound interesting, I still feel a bit cautious about shifter-books, because honestly I am not sure they are my cup of tea. They are so often colored with the whole mate thing-- you know insta-lust with insta-love and the one and only thing, yeah not my cup of tea. So most shifter books only explore that side of the story. Hence my weariness about them.
Now Black Dog is not kind of a shifter book AT ALL. I think Neumeier could totally convert me to a shifter fan. Maybe she already has, just a little...

Simply put this isn't about the shifter-romance.  Despite of what the blurb might indicate. There is a bit of romance- but if you expect to read a shifter romance, this will disappoint you. It's not about romance. It's more- way more. I am actually not sure I can summarize what Black Dog is about. Let me just say this is way deeper than many Young Adult books I have read lately. I think the best I could summaries this is: This is a story about finding a place and making a home, about loyalty and coming to terms with ones own qualities and limitations. And possibly about power and it's downfalls and benefits.

So not a YA PNR, though it has some hints of romance it in it. It is also not your easy quick adventure read. This is a carefully constructed book. Precise and to the point, there is action but the pace is some how slow. Neumeier doesn't do melodramatic or emotional, there is no teeny-angst or angst of any kind. No this is layers upon layers of a beautifully told story, each chapter revealing more and more. The end is absolutely perfect. Not an ending per se, but the end of that particular story. Just as the beginning is starts at a point of the MCs lifes... it ends at another point of their lives.
The story line is paced in a way that one had enough to wonder bout the plot, but is never lost.
The world building is absolutely awesome! My favorite part about the book. And yet again Neumeier is subtle about it. While this is somewhat dystopian, it's set in a parallel world to ours, that is well constructed and totally believable. The Black Dogs and Pures and the different paranormal aspects are interwoven with mythology and Neumeier's own brilliant inventions. It all comes together to form a believable and inspiring world- a place with basically 3different beings - dealing with the aftermath of a huge war. And again I was in awe of Neumeier's subtle touch, her way of adding slowly layers to her storytelling- so much so that it that one actually touches the depths of the existential differences of the different Races and what essential binds them together and what defines them. So it nearly is philosophical.
The story is told most of the time from the point of view of the three siblings- which is very clever because each belongs to one of the 3 Races. Each is coming to terms with who they are.
But I found it quite hard to relate to any character much. My favorite one was Natividad. Maybe because she is a girl or possibly just because.  But even so, while Neumeier did a good job at narrating their story and showing us how they all grow and change, I can't say I feel like I know them. I just enjoyed the story.
By the way he fact that no-one used a nickname or shortened their at times rather long names for some odd reason mad me feel less able to connect to them. I know it's odd, but just reading NATIVIDAD or EZEKIEL kinda slowed me down every single time.

I loved the prose, though in the beginning it took me a while to get into it. I think this is not the kind of book one reads in one sitting but something to enjoy and savor slowly. As I read on Neumeier mesmerized me with her skills and I ended up really enjoying and loving the way she writes.
A beautiful and inspiring Urban Fantasy- with the quality of the great classics in fantasy. So in my opinion a must read for the lovers of fantasy novels.
And the good news is there will be another book set in this amazing world!
Find our interview with Neumeier here.

So how to rate this? Well after pondering it, letting it settle for a long while, I came to the conclusion that it was not quite five stars for me, but more than 4... so a fabulous 4,5Stars!

ARC was provided by Publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


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