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Black Arts by Prentice and Weil is a Thrilling Good Time

By Periscope @periscopepost
Black Arts by Prentice and Weil is a thrilling good time

Black Arts by Prentice and Weil.

It’s 1592 and the dank streets of London are a dangerous hive of thieves, murderers and fanatics. It already sounds bad enough, but when young thief Jack cuts the wrong purse at the Globe Theatre he finds out that magic is real and that there are much worse things than thieves and murderers.

In the midst of horrific Satanist atrocities and with danger round every corner, Preacher Webb steps forward to purge the city of evil. But Jack knows where the evil in London really lies. Embroiled against his will in a battle to save London and to find out the truth of Webb’s involvement in the murders, Jack has his own reasons for wanting to hunt the preacher down – revenge.

As Jack and Webb pursue each other through London’s murky underworld there are deadly encounters with magicians and fearsome devils. Yet in all the danger and violence there is room for friendship, as long as Jack knows who he can trust.

From the opening chapters as Jack attempts to navigate the nerve-jangling initiation into a gang of thieves, authors Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil plunge us into a vibrant, imaginatively crafted London. You can almost smell the sweat, muck and worse as the bustling life (and death) of the city’s dangerous streets threatens to burst off the pages.

Jack immediately stands out in these surroundings as a spirited and tenacious boy, he’s a fun character to follow; brave, cunning and not averse to taking a risk or two. From the dangerous gang-leader Mr Sharkwell and the mysterious, sword fighting ‘Intelligencer’ Kit Morely to the sinister Preacher Webb, the entire cast of the book are a tough bunch and their exploits are fun to witness. As the mystery begins to unravel and the tension is ratcheted ever higher, these characters clash with increasingly thrilling and devastating consequences. My favorite character, an Imp named Imp, provides some wonderful humorous and tender moments to the story and affirms my belief that every children’s book needs some sort of talking creature or animal.

The dialog in Black Arts is superb and contributes generously to Prentice and Weil’s wonderfully atmospheric imagining of London. Sharkwell’s swaggering East London dialect and Imp’s hectic, almost nonsensical diction add a depth to the prose that makes the world and the characters more convincing and ultimately more enjoyable.

The thrilling and terrifying story that ensnares London is well-plotted, told with great accomplishment and its progress is enthralling. There is enough mystery and suspense to silence even the most raucous Elizabethan playhouse audience and as the separate strands of the story spiral ever closer you can be sure a big finale awaits. This is an undoubtedly exciting story but it is the uniquely entertaining characters, their relationships, their dialog and battles that turn this into such a terrific book.

Black Arts is a young adult novel by Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil being published by David Fickling Books, March 2012.

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