From School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-"In the Urwald you grow up fast or not at all," readers learn in the opening of this rich and fecund fantasy. Jinx is that staple of children's literature: the scorned, ill-used orphan who proves to be so much more gifted and important than he ever imagined possible. He occupies a world that is simultaneously original and familiar, influenced by centuries of folklore, but newly envisioned and vividly created. This eldritch, primeval forest that Jinx has been warned to shun is, nevertheless, where he has been abandoned by his heartless stepfather. Blackwood has populated this magical place with convincingly conflicted wizards and witches who seem uncertain as to how much they should be using their skills to control events or the beings around them. Jinx is slow to recognize his own powers as he digs his bare toes into the earth of the forest and feels the pulsing heartbeat of its life, or finds that he can call up fire. He is even slower to divine the motives of the various people he encounters, including Elwyn and Reven-youths under mysterious curses of their own-who navigate the Urwald beside him. Readers will thrill to the journey with Jinx as he discovers and grows into himself. Though they will not feel abandoned at the edge of a cliff at the book's end, they won't be surprised-and will be delighted-if sequels are in the offing.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Nearly abandoned in a forest by his stepfather, young orphan Jinx lands, instead, in the home of a wizard, Simon. There Jinx, who has always had an ability to see others’ feelings in colors and symbols, develops the ability to communicate with the forest’s trees. But after Simon performs a spell, Jinx loses his capacity as an emotional seer. Setting out into the forest to look for a counterspell, Jinx joins company with a girl and a boy, both of whom are suffering under their own curses. In this expertly paced, beautifully written book, Blackwood elevates familiar fantasy elements with exquisitely credible characters who inhabit a world filled with well-drawn magic and whimsy—witches travel by butter churn, for example. Rounding out the exciting story are terrifying dangers, delightful bouts of wordplay, and vivid settings that will appeal to readers’ imaginations, senses of humor, and desire for fair play. A literary cut above Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books but with no less tension or bravado, this exciting, thought-provoking debut will leave readers eager for follow-up adventures. Grades 4-7, --Francisca Goldsmith