an afternoon at Harper Collins, wherein the editor of Jinx, by Sage Blackwood (January 8) sold me on that one by saying it was reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones....And now I have read it (with great enjoyment), and look forward to re-reading it (which I don't say about all that many books).
Jinx is only six or so when his stepfather takes him out of the safety of the mingy clearing where he's lived all his life out into the Urwold--the dangerous forest where monsters lurk.. The stepfather plans to abandon him out there...but instead, it's the stepfather who doesn't make it out alive. There in the forest they meet Simon, a mysterious magician, who saves Jinx from a viscous troll attack...the stepfather isn't so lucky.
Simon takes Jinx home with him, to his mysterious house full of magic....but Simon is no loving surrogate parent, nor does he immediately start introducing Jinx to magic. Instead, Jinx spends the next few years mostly left to his own devices, with only occasional visits by Simon's wife Sophie (who has secrets of his own), and the odd visiting witch, arriving by bouncing butter churn, to break the monotony.
But outside there is the great forest, and Jinx learns over the years that he can hear the thoughts of the trees. Not only that, but he can sense the emotions of others, taking visible form around them. And then Simon betrays him (perhaps), by somehow sucking that part of himself away in a magical spell. Jinx, devastated by his lose, and furious at Simon, heads off by himself in the woods...
And the tone of the story shifts, when Jinx is joined by two young companions, a boy and a girl each suffering from a curse of their own, and they all set out to confront the Bonemaster, the dark wizard who might be able to set them free. From a contemplative story of a boy growing up in mystery, the reader is plunged into Adventure and Danger!
Because the Bonemaster isn't helpful. Instead he imprisons the three kids...and unless they escape, they are toast. And so is Simon, who had his own reasons for doing what he did, and his own backstory with the Bonemaster...
Like I said, I enjoyed it lots! I can, to some extent, see similarities with DWJ, most particularly in the character of Simon-- charismatic guy with secrets, ala Chrestomanci and Howl, and in the character of Jinx--sympathetic boy with magical potential, and indeed this is one I'd be happy to recommend to her fans, though it's not....quite. But what is.
My main hesitation with regard to this book is that it is two different types of story. From the somewhat slow and peaceful pace of Jinx's life with Simon, which are very "home" focused, Jinx and the reader are plunged into a brisk adventure with very high stakes indeed. I liked both very much, but I think the reader who will most truly enjoy the second half of the book might have trouble staying interested in the first. I myself had the opposite problem--I was initially very doubtful about the adventure part, mainly because I was suspicious of the two new characters thrown into my reading, and wanted to stay quietly at home with Simon and Sophie and Simon's multitude of cats and books, but I was pleasantly surprised by how gripping I found it, and how avidly I turned the pages.
And indeed, between writing the summary part and the Deep Thoughts part of this post, I did just go back and re-read it. And enjoyed it again the second time through.
Note on cover--tons of kid appeal for the nine year old boy who finds elves appealing (probably for other nine-year olds too, but I don't have any others on hand).
Edited to add on June 21--I'm now counting Jinx as a diverse mg fantasy, thanks to Sage Blackwood alerting me to his description, which I totally missed: "He saw himself reflected in the glass, a thin boy with black hair, brown eyes, and tan skin" (page 23 of the ARC, which is what I have), and indeed, Jinx as shown on the cover is several shades darker of skin than me (not that this is hard...). And given the fact that he lives in a dense forest, the tan part isn't from time in the sun...