Avid readers of teen fantasy fiction will find much that's familiar in Black Five: vampires, werewolves, witches and the odd fairy and dragon. However, local author J. Lynn Bailey has recast these creatures as denizens of a richly imagined realm called Nighmerianotte. This world lies in another dimension that roughly overlaps the U.S., Europe and Africa. Passage between our world and that of the Nighmerians is through five portals scattered across this vast area, one of which is in Mason, a small coastal town in Northern California.
It is in Mason that we meet our heroine, Penelope Jackson. Penn is in her senior year of high school and somewhat overwhelmed by AP classes, the upcoming Big Game and raging hormones that have turned her friendship with Jesse into an awkward and confusing crush. On top of all this, Penn is keeping a secret.
Shortly before her 18th birthday, Penn discovers that her friends and family have been keeping secrets, too, all revolving around her destiny as the Sanguine, the Black Five — that is, the only one who can save Nighmerianotte from the tyranny of the Black Blood known as Vacavious. The protection spell that has kept Penn's existence hidden from her enemies will end on her next birthday, when she must be ready both physically and mentally to fight for her life and her true home in the other realm.
Engaging characters, an intriguing plot and an earthly setting that feels a lot like Ferndale make this a fun book to read. There are also some squeamish moments, especially when an army of morterros, who function as zombies, attack Penn and her cohorts on Main Street.
Aprilyne Pike has given us fairies in Orick in her series, beginning with Wings, and now the Eel River Valley has its own brush with the world of magic from J. Lynn Bailey. Who knew our community would be at the center of a struggle not only to restore the Kingdom of Nighmerianotte, but to prevent Vacavious' broader plan to bring earth to its knees?
This book should come with a warning: Everything is still unsettled on the last page and readers will have to wait until the next installment of the Black Five Chronicles is released. The good news is that it is already at the publisher and should be available soon. Bailey has a series of four titles planned, so the pleasure of spending time in this fantasy world will continue for years to come.