Title: Black Dog
Author: Rachel Neumeier
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Strange Chemistry (6th February 2014)
Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic and protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs.
Before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them and their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered. 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.
They must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.
Rating: **** (4 stars)
BLACK DOG tells the story of Natividad, a Pure, and her two brothers – Alejandro and Miguel – as they flee their home after the death of their parents to try and find sanctuary with the Dimilioc. But Dimilioc is not welcoming of strangers, and only desperation and their father’s words drives Natividad and her brothers there. All the while their enemies continue pursuing them.
I first came across this book thanks to this post on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks on Tumblr, which made me curious. So I did a little research – looked the book up on both Goodreads and Amazon UK – and thought it sounded interesting. I’d just like to thank #WeNeedDiverseBooks for bringing this book to my attention.
In a lot of ways BLACK DOG is werewolves done “old skool”. The werewolves in this book are not tame, nice creatures. They are people fighting to control the voice – the shadow – in their heads that tells them it would be easier to listen to the anger and hate and strike out. To hurt. To kill. As well as werewolves and humans, there are girls who are Pure – who can use magic. The magic Neumeier utilises in the book was really quite fascinating. It seemed to be based partly on Christianity and partly on something else – something Mexican I’m guessing because of the characters origins, but I wouldn’t like to say for sure.
The story is told mainly from Natividad’s point of view, although occasionally we get Alejandro’s point of view – Natividad’s elder brother, and a black dog. The story starts with Natividad and her brothers on a bus on the way to Dimilioc, having fled Mexico. Neimeier does a brilliant job in creating tension and painting a world that whilst similar to our own, is still different. She lets go of just enough information so we know what is going on – how dangerous things are – without saying too much. I did find the beginning of the book a bit difficult to read – in part because of the tension, but also because I got a bit bored – but things became more and more interesting as the book progressed. It was difficult to put the book down as it neared its conclusion. The ending itself was a little too open for me, but I am hoping that Neumeier decides to revist this world in the future even if the book is a stand-alone at the moment.
BLACK DOG is one of the best werewolf stories I have read in a while, and I actually really enjoyed the diverse cast – though, not knowing Spanish I did struggle a bit with some of the dialogue as it was written in Mexican (?) Spanish. If you are an urban fantasy fan and like werewolves then I highly recommend that you add this book to your to-be-read pile.