Black Dog - Rachel Neumeier
ISBN - 9781908844828 (UK) 9781908844835 (US)
Publisher - Strange Chemistry
Release date - February 4th 2014
Find - Goodreads/Book Depository
'Natividad is Pure, one
of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect
humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the
blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father
and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to
control their dark powers.
But before Natividad’s mother can
finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village
in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their
parents die protecting them. 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.
In the snowy
forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his
youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack
executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of
Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc
Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even
without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that
an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even
at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause
fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog
But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.' - Goodreads
It's not often you find a fresh take on all the supernatural creatures that are out there but that's exactly what Rachel Neumeier has achieved with Black Dog.
Born to a Pure mother and and a black dog father, Natividad is a twin - her brother Miguel is human - and their older brother Alejandro is a black dog. Natividad is special though and highly prized by other black dogs, she too is Pure and can do magic. The story starts with the three siblings fleeing Mexico after their parents are killed in a vicious battle. They're heading for Dimilioc, the only place that might offer them sanctuary but this in itself is a huge risk. Whilst the leader of the Dimilioc dogs will be more than happy to take in Natividad who knows if Miguel or Alejandro will be welcome, or even survive. Everything appears to be looking up for them when they're found by the Dimilioc Enforcer, Ezekiel (and possible love interest!) and taken to Grayson Lanning, Master of Dimilioc. What they find is a surprise, a greatly diminished pack thanks to the recently ended war with the vampires and in need of help especially as it appears that instead of escaping their troubles they've brought them with Dimilioc's doorstep.
I loved just about everything about Black Dog with a only a minor niggle, that being that as Natividad is Pure and therefore if she has children they are likely to either be black dogs or Pure themselves she is looked at almost as a breeder rather than a person. I didn't like the fact that the Master said she would be left alone until she was sixteen but after that she would have to choose a black dog to mate. Natividad doesn't blink an eye at this and goes along with it but this is obviously all part of the world that they live in. The werewolf myth is turned on its head here and I loved that they had a different mythology, there are creatures that turn with the moon but they're seen as weak and not true black dogs, only being able to shift with the moon is full. Black dogs on the other hand don't actually shift, their black dog is a shadow - almost a separate creature that envelopes them but is hard to control, this is where the Pure come in as they are able to help them control their shadow and becalm them.
The story is narrated by both Alejandro and Natividad which I loved, it was great to see Alejandro's struggle firsthand, to see into his head about everything that was happening especially with his beloved sister. Natividad was also a strong character, headstrong, backing down if she absolutely had to but more than willing to go out a limb to help people even at the risk of her own life at some points. As a Pure girl she was meant to be protecting but it was more often than not Natividad doing the protecting, especially with Grayson - I'm not quite sure how their relationship was developing (in a daughter/father sort of way or a romantic way) but she was able to bring him comfort which was misinterpreted by Ezekiel. Enforcer of Dimilioc since the age of thirteen, Ezekiel was both violent and gentle, he never actually laid a hand on Natividad but made it quite clear that it was going to be him that she chose when she turned sixteen. I would loved to have read parts of the story from his point of view and also from Miguel, who turned out to be extremely useful in the ensuing battles even though he was human. It would have been nice to get his viewpoint as a human but I did read that Rachel Neumeier is hoping to write a couple of short stories set in the Black Dog world, I'm hoping that both Ezekiel and Miguel both get to share their thoughts at some point. I also read (on Twitter, I think) that there's going to be a sequel which is great news as I was under the impression that Black Dog was a standalone, excited now to read it to see how the story develops and what's next for Natividad, Miguel and Alejandro.
If you like your YA fantasy with an original spin on a well-known supernatural creature, with great characters and unique world-building and without all the usual love triangles/insta-love then you should definitely give Black Dog a try. It's over four hundred pages but it doesn't feel that long and as soon as the action picks up the story rockets along, Interestingly, the book started life as an adult novel and there definitely still hints of this throughout the book, ie. the level of violence but it works well as both YA and adult fiction. I'm intrigued about how the story would have gone had it stayed adult fiction, that would have been a great book too!
Thanks to Strange Chemistry for providing me with an e-ARC via Netgalley!