Friday, May 9, 2014

Blackbird by Melanie Schulz

Did you ever have one of those days where you felt like you were forgetting something all day long and just couldn't figure out what it was until it was almost too late? was that day. It was bugging me from the moment I woke up, but I couldn't figure it out. Until just a few minutes ago...when I sat down to check off today's post from the blog planner...and realized that I hadn't written it. Ugh. Dumb. So...I apologize for the lateness of this post today (which should have gone up about 18 hours ago), but the good news is that it will still be posted on the 9th as planned. Minor victories...I'll take them.

I met Melanie Schulz online during the A to Z Challenge. She was a fellow blogger participating in the craziness. Each day she would right a small piece of flash fiction based on the letter of the day and providing a bit of back story for the main character in her novel, Blackbird. I didn't find her until just after the midway point (I was picking my way through the list of over 2000 participating bloggers), but once I read her post on day "N", I was hooked. It piqued my interest and I hustled myself right over to Goodreads to read the blurbs on her books, including Blackbird, which she was offering up for review.
Blackbird: Book One in the Newstead Anthem. Steven Raynor is hiding things at a place where nothing gets hidden, at least not without a price. When his junior year starts and he gets stuck with a new roommate, he assumes the time has finally come. But he forgot one thing: At Newstead, there is no cost too high for a traitor. Newstead Anthem is a Saga about a private high school hidden in the Green Mountains of Vermont where one hundred and thirty-three giants are being trained to be tomorrow's rulers, tomorrow's dictators, tomorrow's gods. (Goodreads)
It reminded me a little of the premise from the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, which I had really enjoyed, so I requested a copy. I read Blackbird during Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and I was not disappointed. It was a very good choice for a quick-paced reading challenge. I picked it up and didn't want to put it down.

As it turns out, Blackbird was somewhat of a hodgepodge of the YA fantasy genre. Yes, I saw a little bit of the Fallen series in there, but also a bit of The Mortal Instruments & Infernal Devices series. Basically, it was right up my alley.

To be honest, the Goodreads blurb doesn't do it justice. There is a bit of a mysterious component to the book that you need to be careful not to reveal -- it's a primary driving force for the plot and a good part of what makes this book so good. So...I just reworded it somewhat to give it a little more oomph.

Steven Raynor is a teenager attending a mysterious private school in the Green Mountains of Vermont. At the beginning of his junior year, he is transferred from living with his roommate Seth to living with Marcus, known to be a bit of a bully around the campus and not someone that Steven has particularly warmed to. Changing roommates is not normal at Newstead. But Steven thinks he understands the reason that he has been singled out. Steven has been hiding his true self since arriving at Newstead, not something that is lightly overlooked. There are others who will want to know Steven's secrets. And if they have a clue who they are dealing with, then they will stop at nothing to discover the truth.

When you get right down to it, the plot was fantastic. The whole thing is super secretive and you learn bits and pieces as you go. I could have used a little bit more of a back story. At first I was terribly confused by this and mildly frustrated. But I had dealt with the same feelings with all of the series I listed above and I've learned that, in this kind of a situation, that is a good trait for a book to have. It pushed me to really want to keep reading. Once I'd finished the book, I realized that I probably would have had better luck understanding a few things if I had read Melanie's Newstead Trilogy before taking on Blackbird. I now have those books on my "to read" list and I would suggest probably reading them first if you get easily frustrated by not having all the information as you go.

The pace was super fast, which made it a wonderful book to read during the read-a-thon. Things clipped along pretty well, with a lot happening in each chapter. I liked that quite a bit, but it was ultimately what probably kept me from giving the book the full five stars. The level of confusion caused by the lack of information and the fast pace of the book, lent itself to a few times where I got a little lost. I sometimes forgot which secondary character was which and there were a few instances where I had to go back and read a section to figure out everything that was going on. On the upside, this is a book that you can definitely get more from on a second or third read. I typically find that a plus.

I loved the character of Steven. He has a lot of depth and her development of him throughout the plot is wonderful. I got to where I really felt like I knew Steven. I could understand his point of view and I liked him. It's always nice when you feel like you could genuinely like the main character.

The ending...well, while I can't really tell you much, I can tell you that I was a little lost. There were a few things I couldn't quite understand...and really still don't. But guess what? That's by design. Because once again, I have punished myself by reading the first book in a series before the rest of the books have been released. Yep...I managed to shoot myself in the foot again. Now I'm stuck anxiously waiting for book two.

Now, I do need to make one caveat about this book. While it is technically in the realm of YA fiction, it's not a book that I would recommend for those under high school age. There are some pieces of the plot that are a bit too grown up for kids of Darian's age. If you're a fairly conservative adult, you may also be a bit uncomfortable by a scene or two. But for me, I kind of found these areas a little interesting. They were different; they were bold. I think that added a little respect for the author in my mind. She doesn't seem afraid to put down on paper exactly what she wants her book to be. I liked that.

Blackbird by Melanie Schulz exceeded my expectations. While I thought it would be interesting, I really didn't expect to like the book as much as I did. Like I said, I think if I wasn't confused in the way I found myself a few times, I probably would've gone with five stars. As it is, I gave the book four out of five stars. And once I've read The Newstead Trilogy that may be up for review. If I have the background offered in the first series, it may solve any of the issues I had with this book. Time will tell.

Regardless, it's a good book whether you've read the first series or not. It's one that I would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys YA Fantasy Fiction. If you liked Fallen or Clockwork Angel, or City of Bones, you will probably quite enjoy Blackbird by Melanie Schulz.

I received this book as a free copy from the author. It was given to me as a review copy to read and evaluate. I am not obligated to write a review for any of the books I receive, but it is an encouraged practice. I choose which books I review on my blog and on my Goodreads profile. I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews. My reviews are always honest...I never lie about books. My opinions are my own and may be positive or negative depending on my feelings about a specific piece. Keep in mind, just because I may like or not like a book may not mean that you will feel the same way.


  1. Elle, I posted this once, so if it shows up twice, I apologize. I'm so glad to hear you liked Blackbird. It is The Newstead Project (the first book in The Newstead Trilogy) told from Steven's perspective. Kind of like Enders Shadow is to Enders Game. I always thought Stevens story needed to be told and was glad to do just that with Blackbird. I'd really love you to read The Newstead Project, that would probably clear up a lot of the confusion you had. My email is Email me your email address and I'll attach a copy of that book for you to read. Again, thanks for the review and take care, Mel
    P.S. Happy Mother's Day

    1. Thank you Melanie! See...I figured I had gotten things all messed up by reading the two series out of order. I tend to do fun stuff like that all the time. I can't wait for the next book!

  2. Great review! I really love the cover of this book :)

  3. Thanks Finley Jayne! I agree...the cover was a total win for me as well.


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