Pure Magic by Rachel Neumeier

Urban fantasy YA novel Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier was one of my favorite reads last year. I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel right after I finished reading that book. So when Rachel offered to send me a review copy of Pure Magic in ebook format, I enthusiastically said yes. I didn’t waste any time and jumped right in. Thankfully, I still remembered most of the story from the first book and didn’t have to do a reread prior to picking up Pure Magic. The books need to be read in order so read Black Dog first before venturing into Pure Magic. There’s also a set of short stories that occurs between the first and second book. I won’t mention spoilers but feel free to skip this review if you haven’t read the earlier books yet.

Pure Magic Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

After Natividad, Alejandro, and Miguel’s victory against their family’s rival, even more dangerous threats emerge, from an increase in stray black dogs to far worse opponents who would tear down the fragile Dimiloc alliance and re-make it in their own image.

I liked being back in the world that Rachel Neumeier created in her urban fantasy series. Where some men and women can shift into these ferocious and aggressive creatures called black dogs, similar to wolves. And where there are also people like Natividad, who are Pure and can create a defensive form of magic mostly used for peace and protection against evil. I think the first book did a good job of laying out the foundation for the worldbuilding and this sequel builds upon that. I liked seeing more of Natividad’s magic and how creative she can get within the limitations of what she can do. Because of the nature of her magic, Natividad has a quiet strength that shines through when the people she cares about are in danger. I think it’s impressive how a normally unobtrusive kind of magic becomes crucial in certain situations. I really liked that the Pure have their own kind of power and the focus of the story shifts between the Pure and black dogs. That is not to say that humans don’t play an important role in this world because they do, as illustrated by Natividad’s twin, Miguel. Even without special powers, Miguel significantly contributes to helping Dimilioc in its efforts to rebuild the clan. A big part of why I enjoy this series is the characters. Aside from Natividad and her brothers, I also liked the various members of the Dimilioc clan, not the least of which is their executioner, Ezekiel. I found the early chapters of the book a bit slow because of the introduction of a new main character and narrator, Justin, but it was soon revealed how he was important to the story so I didn’t mind. Like with the rest of the characters, I just wanted to find out more about him.

While I did feel that Pure Magic had a bit of a slow start, the climax builds really nicely until you reach a point where the characters are in situations where the odds are seemingly impossible. The stakes are high and there’s only so much that the Dimilioc black dogs and Pure can do. It makes for an absorbing read. I was glad I picked this up on a weekend and I didn’t have to worry about work getting in the way of my reading time. I was worried about the characters and I wanted everyone to find a way out of the difficulties they found themselves in. The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger but keep in mind that there will be more installments in the series and some of the future plot arcs have been nicely set up in Pure Magic. There’s a more global view of the black dog world in this book as compared to the first one, where we mostly saw the focus in the Americas – North America where the Dimilioc strength lies and also Mexico because that’s where Natividad and her brothers grew up. My review of Pure Magic will not be complete if I didn’t mention the slow burn romance. There was just a hint of it in the first book and I immediately wanted A LOT MORE. More scenes with these two potential lovebirds, more dialogue and conversation, and a better idea of what they thought of each other. Pure Magic does not disappoint! I really savored this aspect of the story, although I certainly wouldn’t have minded if these two had more page time in the book. There were too many things happening for them to have a quiet time together. I can always hope for that in the next novel, which I already can’t wait to read even if it hasn’t even been written yet! Similar to Black Dog, Pure Magic was a very satisfying read and I recommend it to fans of YA urban fantasy.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
By Singing Light

New Release: Black Dog Short Stories by Rachel Neumeier

YA urban fantasy Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier was one of my favorite reads last year and I wanted to read more from this world as soon as I finished reading the book. Thankfully, a set of short stories, called Black Dog Short Stories, has been released this week! I wanted to give the rest of you a heads up in case you missed it.

Black Dog Short StoriesNatividad is delighted when the Master of Dimilioc gives her permission to go Christmas shopping in a real town, since she definitely needs to find gifts for her brothers. But did Grayson have to assign Keziah to go with her?

Étienne Lumondiere has annoyed Miguel once too often, throwing his weight around and belittling ordinary humans. But Miguel’s going to fix that. He just needs to work out a few more details of his clever plan.

It’s tough for a black dog raised outside Dimilioc to adjust to being a team player. But Thaddeus is determined to impress Grayson . . . until he is unexpectedly confronted by a black dog kid who reminds him a little too much of himself.

The Dimilioc executioner is the mainstay of the Master’s authority, as Ezekiel knows better than anyone. He has never questioned his role in Dimilioc . . . until now.

“Christmas Shopping,” “Library Work,” and “A Learning Experience” all take place between Black Dog and Pure Magic. “The Master of Dimilioc” is a prequel story that takes place several years before the events of Black Dog.

I’ve received review copies of this and the next book in the series, Pure Magic, from the author and I look forward to reading both! I believe Pure Magic will be released sometime in May.

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

I enjoyed reading Rachel Neumeier’s House of Shadows so I jumped at the chance to read Black Dog when I was offered a review copy. I was intrigued when I first found out the premise of the book. Also, I wanted to see how Rachel’s writing will translate from epic fantasy to urban fantasy.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Black DogNatividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle

It’s been weeks since I finished reading Black Dog and I still have fond memories of it. I remember staying up late one week night to finish reading this novel. It didn’t take that much effort for me to be immersed in the story and I found myself absorbed until I reached the end. I found the characters intriguing and felt that the worldbuilding was solid. I like how the reader is thrown into the story without lengthy descriptions, you just learn more about the world as you keep reading. The magic in this world can be found in black dogs and the Pure. Black dogs are shapeshifters who can change from their human to black dog forms as needed. While Pure women are able to wield their magic to invoke peace and to protect other people from malicious magic. The calmness that the Pure can provide serves as a counterpoint to the anger and violence that are part of a black dog’s nature. Natividad is a Pure, her brother Alejandro is a black dog while her twin Miguel is human. I like how these three siblings each have their own strengths and weaknesses. They each have something to contribute to their family, and eventually the Dimilioc clan. Even Miguel, who has no supernatural abilities, has skills in other areas. Aside from having magical skills, I also found it interesting that these siblings are half-Mexican and half-American. They were brought up in Mexico but had to flee to North America to run away from danger, and to hopefully gain allies in the Dimilioc clan. The Dimilioc black dogs also have a mix of interesting characters and I was curious about them as well.

I like how the point of view shifts from Natividad to Alejandro, giving us a better understanding of what this world is like from both Pure and black dog perspectives. I did wonder if the story would have been richer if we also got Miguel’s POV but it wasn’t a major issue. Black Dog was such an enjoyable read for me. I liked how the story progressed until the climax was reached. So many things happened in a short span of time but I thought the events were paced well. I really wasn’t able to predict how things will go, so I kept turning the pages to find out. It’s a good introduction to the world in this series and it made me want to read the sequel even though it hasn’t even been released. I would be more than interested to find out how the members of the Dimilioc clan will adapt based on recent changes that they’ve implemented. The world is on the cusp of change as they enter a new age where vampires no longer exist. I found that aspect of the story intriguing, as well as the history and culture of black dogs. There’s also a tentative romance in the first book that I’m hoping will be further developed in the sequel. I felt that the love story was barely there and would have loved more scenes between the two characters. I also thought that Black Dog had beautiful writing – here’s a non-spoilery snippet to illustrate my point:

“Out there in the cold, mountains rose against the sky, white and gray and black: snow and naked trees and granite and the sky above all… The sky itself was different here, crystalline and transparent, seeming farther away than any Mexican sky. The sun seemed smaller here, too, than the one that burned across the dry mountains of Nuevo Leon: this sun poured out not heat, but a cold brilliant luminiscence that the endless snow reflected back into the sky, until the whole world seemed made of light.”

Further proof of how much I enjoyed reading this book was that it reminded a little of the World of the Lupi series by Eileen Wilks, which was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I’m happy to report that I feel like Rachel Neumeier made a successful foray into urban fantasy with Black Dog. Like I said, I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliphile
By Singing Light
Charlotte’s Library