Jinx's Magic, by Sage Blackwood (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014), I carefully gathered together all the receipts from my year of purchases at my local independent bookstore (where you get 10% back in January) and when right to where I hoped it would be, and lo! it was there, and I took it home very happily (and I even had 40 cents left over from my receipts). Jinx was one of my favorite books of 2013, and I had high hopes...
And though it was all a bit more Worrying than I would have liked, I enjoyed it just fine, and I think readers who are made of tougher stuff will enjoy it even more than me!
Jinx's life has been left somewhat snarlish after the events of book 1. He has become a Listener, able to hear the voices of the trees of the Urwald, and the trees are not happy--incursions of tree fellers are wrecking havoc. His companions of his first adventure, Elfwyn and Reven, are headed toward their own adventures, in Reven's case, reclaiming his rightful kingdom (which involves plans to acquire more and wealth through deforestation). And Simon, Jinx's surly yet charismatic mentor/guardian, is determined to take down the Bonemaster, the bad guy of Book 1. He won't let Jinx come help him, but instead sends Jinx to the desert land of Samara, to track down useful knowledge there. In Samara, Jinx must infiltrate an organization of scholars to track down the book of magic Simon needs (this was my favorite part of the book) but in Samara, magic is a crime punishable by death.
And all the while, Jinx is realizing that somehow he's found himself in the position of being the one who must ultimately defeat the Bonemaster and save the Urwald....but he has pretty much no clue how to do these things. So he sticks, in this book, to finding Sophie, and trying to save Simon, and trying to learn as much possible before everything goes even more awry, and he's very realistically a 13 year old boy trying to figure out just what he should be doing, without much help from any grown-ups.
The absolute best part of Sage Blackwood's writing is how much dialogue she uses to tell her story--her characters Talk to each other, and at each other, lots, and their conversations beautifully advance both plot and character development (and there are many characters who are utterly deserving of the page time they get, including two new young Samarians, both appealing and interesting). The reader learns nothing directly from the author--all the lovely rich worldbuilding is done through the lens of Jinx's real-time experience, and it works beautifully.
As in the first book, I almost felt it was a bit of a pity that there had to be danger--I would happily read page after page that was just Simon and Sophie and Jinx at home, preferably with visits either to or from several of the other characters. I begrudged the fact that there was never really a time in which the characters weren't worried, or in mortal peril. I realize, with the logical part of my mind, that the adventure/danger element of the story really does have to be there, and that it really does have lots of appeal as a Good Story, and those elements of the story give the characters a chance to shine. So I'm not actually complaining, just saying. And though I became very worried about the tree chopping down almost immediately, and this kept me from feeling comfy and happy, I also realize that this is a very personal reader reaction (I am fond of trees), and maybe when I go back and read it again (after the forest has, one assumes, been saved in future books) I will not be as distressed.
Jinx's Magic is not a stand-alone, but since Jinx is lovely in its own right, this is a non-issue.
And as in the first book, there's one description of Jinx as having dark skin, making this one for my multicultural sff list!
Other reviews at Random Musings of a Bibliophile and Waking Brain Cells.