How I came to read this book
I received my advance reading copy of Black Bird of the Gallows at Book Expo America. I was first drawn to it by the appealing cover, and by the exuberant smile of the author, Meg Kassel, who performed a signing at the Entangled Publishing booth. I believe this was her first signing, and I could see the pride beaming from her.
Black Bird of the Gallows was the first novel I picked up after returning home from Book Expo. I wanted a delicious, consumable YA Fantasy to sweep me up and make me forget my aches and pains from carrying books around the conference. This debut novel did not disappoint!
What it’s about
Meet Angie Dovage, our young heroine with a tragic past and a healthy curiosity about her handsome new neighbor and classmate, Reece Fernandez. Reece’s arrival is met with a variety of bizarre happenings in Angie’s hometown– crows arrive in large numbers and begin behaving peculiarly, in addition to an upswing in bee stings, despite the cold winter weather. Between Reece’s odd familiarity with the crows and his stern warnings to keep away from the bees, Angie is certain there is something unusual about this boy. Nevertheless, she feels continuously drawn to him despite her better judgment, and despite his dodgy behavior, averting any direct questions about his atypical activities. It isn’t until one night, when Angie is attacked by a strange and ancient beast, that she finally begins to get the answers she desires, revealing a vast and terrifying world she never knew existed and opening her eyes to a catastrophic event looming in the near future. She finds herself in the middle of an endless cycle of tragedy and heartbreak, perpetuated by a deadly curse that has yet to be broken.
Author Meg Kassel drew me into this YA novel from the very first chapter. This is one of those books you can’t stop thinking about even if you can manage to put it down. Readers quickly empathize with Angie, a teenager with all the built up creativity and insecurities we all have/had during those vulnerable adolescent years. Reece offers a healthy balance as a male lead, exuding both foreboding mystery and a sense of sincerity as well. Though you can tell he’s hiding something, you somehow feel you can trust him, and you fall in love with him right alongside Angie. Their romance is both genuine and electric, allowing readers to root for them through even the most difficult challenges they face as a couple (I won’t give anything away, but this guy comes with some gruesome baggage). I found myself hoping for a happily ever after for Angie and Reece, something I hardly ever hope for in novels, as I have a certain fondness for tragic endings.
The true genius of this novel lies in the incredible and original mythology it is built around. Kassel has crafted a world of deep and ancient curses manifesting in earthly forms that give you chills. The beasts are terrifying, the despair of the cursed palpable. There are hints to even more depth of this world, other ancient beings and magic, and I was left wanting to know more. I do hope Kassel continues writing and expanding on this mythology, as it has really interesting potential. I’d line up to buy more books like this!
I enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I hoped it would be. If I were to offer any criticism, it would be that the story doesn’t stray too far from common YA paranormal romance tropes. The teenage girl with only one present parental figure, the cursed hottie at school who happens to be WAY older than he looks (gross! I still can’t get past this in YA paranormal romance), a big sacrifice in the end, etc. These tropes are there for a reason; people love them. But I do hope to get a surprise or two in a novel. For this novel, my true surprise and pleasure was in soaking in the very original mythology, as I said before. Loved that, and look forward to reading more from author Meg Kassel.