ARC Review: Black Dog

Book: Black Dogs by Rachel Neumeier
Publisher: Strange Chemistry, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: heartheartheartheart
Source + Date Read: Netgalley ARC + December 2013
Recommend: For those that want some fantasy with their action.
Book Pro’s: Fantasy! Werewolves (sorta)! Biracial lead characters! Kick ass females!
Book Con’s: Young adult sexuality is expressed in a possessive way, which isn’t necessarily a con for the book because I think the author’s trying to make a point but as someone who remembers being 15, that was a bit much for the protagonist to handle.

Summary: 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.


I’m a big fan of Strange Chemistry books, I’ve read so many ARC’s for them and one of my resolutions this year is to actually do the damn reviews. It’s not that I don’t like doing reviewsbut I tend to move on frombook to book so quickly that I forget to write a review while the memories and emotions are fresh.

But it’s a testament to this book that nearly 3 months after I’ve read it, I can remember what I liked about it vividly, as well as the characters.

Firstly, this book gets major diversity points. The lead characters are biracial and grew up in Mexico. There are strong cultural ties between the characters and where they grew up. Food, clothing and particular lifestyles are often mentioned, and spanish is interspersed throughout the book (and not in a cheesy way, it’s successful I think, in that it fleshes the characters out more).

Secondly, it is a truly imaginative tale, Neumeier totally transforms the concept of the werewolf in this book, so that the novel is a nod to historical fantasy fiction but is a unique piece of work. It is also rich in symbolism, this notion of darkness, as something to contend with rather than an ultimate evil is terribly fascinating to me. The fact that Black Dogs have such a hierarchical system, one that is steeped in violence no less, is fascinating because you’d think that it would give the alpha Black Dogs all the power right? Well Nativitad’s human twin brother (she’s a Pure, and her older brother is a Black Dog, their father was a Black Dog and mother was a Pure, talk about mixing! I loved it!) often defers his power to his Black Dog brother yet readers know, we always know, that this deference is a false sense of power because they’re doing it to calm everyone down and not through any sense of respect or true subservience. Amazing!

THirdly, every character or species is important. What irks me in so many fantasy books is that there are the Special People, those with powers, or some sort of fantasy mix which is greatbut we live in a world where everyone wants to be specialbut isn’t. We just aren’t. And in Neumeier’s Black Dogs, everyone has an important role to play. Everyone is signficant. Yes prestige and power are given to the Pure and Black Dogsbut even the regular old humans can do things that the others can’t (such as touch silver, use guns, and so on). Everyone is important to the overall harmony in battle and to the story. Boom. Plus, I love Natividad’s twin brother, I don’t think he got enough love as a human and I’m trying to give it to him here.

In short: Read this book. Also read Neumeier’s guest post.

Total Score: heartheartheartheart
Recommend? Hell, yeah.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, SFF, YA. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to ARC Review: Black Dog

  1. Pingback: 2013 Reads | Bitches With Books

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