Blackbringer: An interesting early work from a favourite author

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewschildren's fantasy book review Laini Taylor Faeries of Dreamdark 1. Blackbringer 2. Silksinger Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

Although now best known for her DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy, I was interested in checking out some of Laini Taylor‘s early work, specifically her duology DREAMDARK, made up of Blackbringer (2007) and Silksinger.

Magpie Witchwind is a young faerie that travels the globe, searching for devils (or “snags”) that are gradually creeping back into the world. Originally trapped in bottles and other containers, the arrival of human beings and their insatiable curiosity means that these devils are now escaping their prisons and leaving destruction in their wake.

With her family of raucous crows, Magpie hunts down these devils, following in the footsteps of the legendary hero Bellatrix.

But when she comes across an empty bottle with the broken seal of a powerful Djinn, she begins to wonder if she’s in over her head. What devil could possibly destroy an entire shipful of people, leaving behind only their shoes? She decides to return to her home of Dreamdark, a forest-city where most faeries live, in order to find answers and get help.

Sequel

Sequel

Taylor’s prose is not quite as poetic and polished in Blackbringer as it is in her later works, but she still spins a whimsical and intriguing story of scavengers, imps, witches, faeries and djinn. The world she’s created borrows a lot from a variety of different cultures, but it’s all melded together into a coherent whole, with its own history and traditions.

Magpie — and later Talon, a faerie prince without the ability to fly — are somewhat two-dimensional, but make for determined and brave protagonists that see an important task that needs doing and put all of their resources into doing it. The secondary characters, from Magpie’s crow friends to Talon’s family members are likewise pleasant enough without being hugely memorable.

The only real false note is the self-proclaimed Queen Vesper — she’s a typical “evil stepmother” type character, whose purpose in the story feels rather superfluous — almost like she was part of a larger subplot that got cut.

But there’s plenty of plot twists and clever foreshadowing, and interesting themes about how even long-lived creatures can forget their heritage to their own peril. Plus who doesn’t want to read about a diminutive knife-wielding faerie that hunts devils?

Despite Silksinger being a sequel, Blackbringer is a standalone novel without any kind of cliff-hanger. It’s an interesting look at Taylor’s early work, but also a fun read on its own terms.

Published in 2007. When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself- the creator of the world- she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer? At a time when fantasy readers have an embarrassment of riches in choosing new worlds to fall in love with, this first novel by a fresh, original voice is sure to stand out.

 


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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2 comments

  1. Paul Connelly /

    I’m glad you posted this review, because it reminded me I never got around to reading the sequel to (or second half of) Strange the Dreamer. Which I wouldn’t have read in the first place if it weren’t for liking Blackbringer and Silksinger quite a bit.

    So now I have reserved Muse of Nightmares at my library, and hopefully they will open up again one of these days so I can fetch it.

    • Rebecca Fisher /

      Funny you should say that, as “Strange the Dreamer” is next in my TBR pile!

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