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Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

October 23, 2018
A Blade So Black, L.L. McKinney, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Imprint on September 25, 2018
Format Read: ARC Edition (364 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy/ Retelling
Series: Stand Alone (for now)
Source: Karen from For What It's Worth Reviews
Rating: FOUR STARS
A Blade So Black
~Amazon~ 
The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she's trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn't always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice's handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she'll need to use everything she's learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

VERDICT:

Content Warning: Graphic Violence

REVIEW:

This was written perfectly to appeal to black teens who never knew they could enjoy fantasy. Alice is a courageous teen who discovers her own power to kill monsters called Nightmares from the mysterious Wonderland. She has to grapple with real monsters in Wonderland while also dealing with the trauma of feeling unsafe and gun violence in her neighborhood. Alice's best friends are Courtney and Chess they make endearing jokes about race and try to empathize with her experience. All of the characters were well developed which added great realism and contrasted well with whimsical Wonderland.

I was pleasantly surprised by how multifaceted the plot and story was. Alice is tormented by guilt because she has to be supportive for her family while leaving for long periods to kill Nightmares. While she trains with her mentor Hatta to navigate Wonderland she has to deal with normal teenage hormones and romantic feelings. Alice is not the only one who is recruited from our world to hunt and kill Nightmares. Dee and Dum are Russian teenage boys who hunt Nightmares to keep them at bay, they work with Alice as she encounters evil in Wonderland. The magical grasses, bubbles and strange passage of time in Wonderland created satisfying world building. The action was believable and the fast pace kept me engaged the whole time.
"And to those black kids searching countless shelves and between endless pages, hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves in galaxies far away, fantasies long ago, and stories here and now: this one's for you. Shine on, and drive back the darkness."~Author's Note
The stakes are high, the villains are awful and the diverse representation was refreshing. Some of the romantic elements were less than perfect but that was a small part of the book. The ending left me wanting more after a cliff hanger. I'm hoping that this is the beginning of a new series because I want to return to these characters and learn more about how they will continue to battle the evils of Wonderland. This was a really enjoyable read I would recommend to all readers.

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy action packed and multifaceted fantasy's
- want to return to the wonderful whimsical Wonderland
- appreciate racial and sexual diversity

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

L.L. McKinney, InToriLex
Leatrice "Elle" McKinney, writing as L.L. McKinney, is a poet and active member of the kidlit community. She’s an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtag #WhatWoCWritersHear. She’s spent time in the slush by serving as a reader for agents and participating as a judge in various online writing contests.

Elle's also a gamer, Blerd, and adamant Hei Hei stan, living in Kansas, surrounded by more nieces and nephews than she knows what to do with. Aside from rockin' the Favorite Aunt thing, she spends her free time plagued by her cat--Sir Chester Fluffmire Boopsnoot Purrington Wigglebottom Flooferson III, esquire, Baron o'Butterscotch or #SirChester for short--or defending the realm from the enemies of Azeroth. FOR THE HORDE!

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