Black Bird of the Gallows, by Meg Kassel
Publish Date: September 5, 2017
Published by: Entangled Publishing
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an ARC at BookCon 2017 in return for an honest review.**
A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.
What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.
Black Bird of the Gallows is one of those books that will take you back to your Twilight phase, just without the vampires and werewolves. There is just something about it that had me nostalgic for the stories of the 2000’s, when teenage girls who felt like wallpaper were suddenly shown the magic and darkness living all around them (and subsequently falling in love with someone who lives with that magic). It’s not bad, per se, since the magic in this book is very unique and unlike anything I’ve read before, but it was also a little predictable at times and full of characters that didn’t really stand out in any way.
The story begins with some typical scenes one might see in many a novel – spying on the new and hot next door neighbor, dealing with the dynamics of a school cafeteria, and pulling a Hannah Montana because Angie is too nervous to be herself when DJing. The writing is decent, and the magic easily pulls the reader in with all of its mystery and creepiness and semi-laughability (“Stay away from the bees” still makes me giggle a bit), and is what really drives the story.
The romance, sadly, is one of those insta-love stories, where all they seem to need to do is look at each other and start sighing dramatically. At least, that’s what it appeared to be at first. Turns out, not so much the case, but I don’t want to say anything else cause that would involve spoilers. Still, even then I felt it was more insta-love than anything else, and I just never got the impression that the two characters ever actually spent time getting to know one another outside of Angie badgering Reece to explain the weird shit going on around him and Reece trying to avoid answering her, and then subsequently trying to protect her.
Now, for the characters.
Angie, the main protagonist and narrator, is the typical YA protagonist of so many a novel. Her past is full of mother issues, and her present is full of social ones. Her connection to music was strong, but it takes Reece to push her to open up and be herself when performing. She shows a little character growth, but not enough to make a real impact, or at least, not any that isn’t predictable.
Reece is the typical “oh woe is me” male lead character. He is cursed, so yeah it’s understandable, but it’s also not new to me. I’ve seen him before, in many a book. The one who feels he has to sacrifice himself to save the girl he loves. And, honestly, his character revolves so much around this facet of him, that it feels like there is little much else to him. He’s a pretty guy who hates his existence and loves Angie.
Then there are the secondary characters. Angie’s best friends, Lacey and Deno, and her father are the ones who make the most impressions (aside from the evil guy, Rafette, whose drive for the novel is actually pretty understandable despite how he goes about doing it), but they could have done with more depth to them as well. It was one of those things where, despite the claim that she is BFFs with Lacey and Deno, as soon as Reece comes into the picture, they drop out until necessary again. Her father was more present and definitely did more for the plot and showing character, but I just wish some of the relationships besides the Angie-Reece one had more page-time in the novel.
Now, I wouldn’t normally talk about this, but the fact that Keira Shaw existed as a character at all in this book felt kind of unnecessary. She is a very minor character who has little page time, and is the typical queen bee of the school who thrives on making others miserable, especially Angie. It feels like she does this for absolutely no reason, and kind of makes her an evil character just for the sake of having that stereotype of a character in the book to make the reader feel sympathy for Angie that she has to suffer at the claws of such a b*tch. I wasn’t a big fan of this plot device, since it did almost nothing to further the plot, and when it was finally addressed (briefly) at the end, the “explanation” felt muddled and not very well thought-out. It was the “oh I’m just kind of jealous of you and am just being mean to you because I can’t stand myself” sort of thing that really did nothing to show any character growth in either character, because again, Keira was barely present to have any character growth, and her explanation of what she was jealous of was something we knew about Angie from the start, so there was no real revelation there.
The majority of the novel is just a lot of magic-awareness growth on Angie’s part, Reece being a tortured soul, and the two of them trying to protect each other. It all builds up to a climactic end, with a lot of stuff happening in the last 100 pages, but it didn’t drag or anything since the explanations kept coming and kept twisting things a little as the story progressed. Mostly it was a lot of the characters and their lack of depth that had this story feeling a little drab and not altogether satisfying. I like the originality of the magic and mythology, and the plot moved decently, but the characters and their relationships could have used a lot more work.
ARC August | Books Completed Toward Goal: 7/12