Ferrara, J. (2014). The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin. Newton Square, PA: Dragonwell Publishing.
Young YA / Middle Grade / Urban Fantasy
I gave this book 4* stars
For the past nine years, sixteen-year-old Nicholas has been living at St. Christopher's Academy as its only year-round boarder. Orphaned after his parents were murdered -- which Nicholas witnessed -- Nicholas now has a penchant for trouble and gave up on God long ago. As the new school year begins, a new student, Amy, draws Nicholas's attention, and a trickster serpent tempts Nicholas into doing something with dire consequences -- Nicholas releases the Seven Deadly Sins, which his parents had confined, into the world of mankind. It is up to Nicholas to discover the secrets of his family, the Blackwell family, and correct his mistake, but Amy, who has secrets of her own, pledges to help him. Nicholas learns he must defeat the Princes of Hell, each a guardian of one of the seven deadly sins, and Nicholas and Amy begin an adventure into the world of Demonio. There, the pair finds information and help through a colorful group of Risen demons, who tell Nicholas that in order to defeat the princes and save mankind, he must retrieve each Prince's piece of the Devil's Crown. Nicholas, Amy, and the Risen demon Pugdush, put their lives on the line as they battle the guardians of lust, sloth, greed, gluttony, envy, pride, and wrath -- but will they succeed in defeating the devil himself? In The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin, Jonathan Ferrara creates a fantastic world with fantastic creatures where the battle between good and evil rages, and the fate of the world is in one boy's hands.
The Blackwell Family Secret is an easy-to-read, interesting story with a great premise and a rich parallel world of fantastic creatures. Author Ferrara's descriptions of this world and these creatures are really the book's strongest points, giving readers vivid images to carry as they read. Ferrara's imagery definitely sets the mood for his scenes, as in the opening chapter that starts with "decrepit gravestones scattered across the dead field." The main characters aren't very fleshed-out, and our protagonist, Nicholas, isn't much of a hero, though he clearly thinks himself one (hmm, do I smell pride?), and readers will chuckle at his vow to protect Amy when she's just saved him from dying at the hands of a Prince of Hell. The message behind this is probably a good reminder that most great accomplishments aren't done alone. There is a heavy theological aspect to the book, but it's paired with the mystical via the Enchanteds, so it doesn't feel too preachy. Attentive readers will figure out most of the secrets pretty easily, and readers will eventually be given a reason for why Nicholas and his group conquer each Prince of Hell with relative ease, though explanation or not, the battles could be a bit of a disappointment for some readers.
In The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin, there's never much question of how it all will turn out, but it's fun getting there. The book would benefit from a thorough editing to correct writing and formatting errors (*really a 3.5 rating) and though it's pitched as young adult, the writing seems geared more towards middle grade readers, who will also more readily accept some of the elements of the story. Reluctant readers will appreciate the fast pace, and Jonathan Ferrara has definitely left the door open for sequels -- the possibilities there are unlimited. (And if he goes there, I would love a book about the history of the Blackwell men and their fate! Good stuff there!)
This book was reviewed for Readers' Favorite, who provided me a free eBook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.