Review: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

By Gwenda Bond
416 Pages
Published by Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: September 4, 2012 (expected)
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads:

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance.

Hm, Blackwood. I’m so torn on how I feel about this book that I’m not even sure how I want to review it, so this may be a little disjointed.

First of all, as soon as I saw that it took place on Roanoke Island & involved the disappearances of the colonists I was all over it like a history nerd on a Ken Burns documentary (ironically, I’m also like a history nerd on a Ken Burns documentary when I watch a Ken Burns documentary). To me, this is one of the most fascinating mysteries of  our country’s history. I will watch or read anything that I see on it.

I felt that it started off a little info dumpy, and that continued for a while. I don’t think it was a failure of the writing, I just think that there was a lot of back story and it would have been a total doorstopper of a book if the author didn’t just lay it all out for the reader. That said, it did make me a bit shifty & restless. It improved once the story picked up, though, so that was good. It was kind of convoluted initially because there were a bunch of different angles that all needed to tie together, but once things really got rolling I caught on.

My main problem with the story was that I really didn’t like anyone except for Phillips and Sidekick, and since Sidekick is a dog he doesn’t actually have any dialogue. Phillips is basically a sweetheart. He’s got a bit of a rebellious bad boy streak, but nothing too bad. More of a scamp than a true delinquent. And he is very, very good to Miranda when frankly he could have just kicked her straight to the curb. Everyone other than Phillips I kind of found to be either annoying, bland, or stupid. As for Miranda, I thought she was pretty meh overall. Not awful, but not the kind of character that makes me want to get all fist pumpy and root for her. She puts off the attitude of someone who believes that she is strong but she doesn’t really come off as particularly strong. And the “frak” as a swear word thing got tiresome really, really quickly. After about the fifth time I was starting to get homicidal.

Say frak again, motherfrakker.

Oh, and there was one particular plot point toward the end that SKEEVED ME RIGHT THE HELL OUT. Like, sincerely awkwardly uncomfortable. I assume that was the intent, but it just came off as totally ew. Maybe a little too much ew.

Lest I come off as too negative, I didn’t really dislike the book. There wasn’t a point where I thought, “Well, I’m not going to finish this.” The story itself was interesting enough that I wanted to see where it went, how things played out and how the current people tied into the lost colonists. I felt like the explanation was an interesting idea, even if I didn’t like everything about how it was presented.

3/5 Stars


Leave a comment


  1. Hmm, see, I’d normally be on this like white on rice. US history (history of all sorts, really) fascinates me, especially mysteries like Roanoke.) It’s too bad it didn’t really click with you! I also hate when words get over-used – it’s like Jesus people, use a thesaurus! Haha.

  2. Holla, for history nerds!! Woot! I am fascinated by the lost colony of Roanoke. So the book sounds awesome. This seems like a case of good story, blah characters. It’s hard to truly love a story of you don’t have characters to root for. Sorry this didn’t live up to its awesome potential. Great review!

  3. I, also, am very much fascinated by the mystery of what happened to the colonists who settled on Roanoke Island. The premise behind this book sounds interesting – connecting the past to the present. But I appreciate how you pointed out the aspects of this book that didn’t quite work for you. Characterization is huge for me, so if you couldn’t connect to one of the main characters, that makes me hesitant to look into this book.

  4. I’m a total Ken Burn’s nerd too:) I like the historical mystery aspect of this but for some reason I just wasn’t enthused over it. I really don’t care for the cover either. Is it at all relevant to the story?

    Awesome Samuel Jackson/ Pulp Fiction reference btw:)


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