Published by Egmont Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2021.
Amari and the Night Brothers is an epic adventure with an amazing protagonist. 13-year-old Amari Peters will be the hero for a new generation of readers. Amari’s big brother Quinton has gone missing. No one will talk to her about it. Amari is convinced that her brother’s mysterious job holds the secret to his disappearance. When Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain that this is her chance to find Quinton.
The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs is the link between the known world and the supernatural, and is charged with keeping the supernatural world secret. You see, both worlds exist alongside each other but the supernatural is kept hidden. Any human sightings of the supernatural are covered up or explained away by the Bureau.
Amari is one of a number of children who have been given a place at a summer camp at the Bureau. The trainees must pass a series of tryouts and tests to earn the right to become a junior in their preferred department. Amari wants a place in the Department of Investigation, her brother’s former department, as she’s convinced this will hold the key to his whereabouts. However, competition to become a Junior Agent is particularly fierce.
At the crystal ball ceremony, where trainees’ natural talents are enhanced to supernatural abilities, Amari is revealed as a magician. Magicians in the supernatural world have real magic and are extremely powerful. The two most notorious magicians are the Night Brothers: the long-deceased Count Vladimir, and Raoul Moreau (currently locked away in Blackstone Prison). They used their magic for ill and once waged war on the entire supernatural world and almost won. As a consequence, magicians are feared and despised in the Bureau and there are calls for Amari to be thrown out immediately, despite her never having mis-used her magic. She is permitted to stay but is henceforth regarded with suspicion and hatred by many.
The book’s most powerful theme is prejudice, particularly racial prejudice. Amari is a black girl from the projects and everywhere she goes she faces prejudice. In the known world she is bullied at the Jefferson Academy, the elite school to which she won a scholarship. The wealthy white kids who attend don’t like a black kid from “the wrong side of town” being there too. When she arrives at summer school, it’s not long before she’s again singled out as different. This time for being a magician. The book meaningfully explores what it means to be judged for something you can’t control. We witness the impact of this bullying and cruelty. The weakness of the perpetrators is exposed. By contrast, we see Amari’s strength. She has tremendous resilience and courage.
In a powerful scene where Amari’s past and future are conjured before her, we learn how Amari’s personal history is tied to significant events in black history, including slavery and the fight for equal rights. Coursing through her veins, Amari has the willpower to endure seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Other significant themes which run throughout the book are the themes of friendship and family. I loved Amari’s mother – a hard-working principled single mom who is doing everything in her power to afford her children a better future. This is contrasted starkly with the entitlement of the privileged Legacy children and their families.
The world building in Amari and the Night Brothers is immense! B. B. Alston has created a magnificently detailed fantasy world on such a large scale that it completely absorbs you as you read. The many fantastical departments at the Bureau and a whole host of incredible supernatural creatures are all vividly imagined. There are fairies, witches, yetis and giants. We also encounter cyclops, flame serpents, griffins and unicorns. I especially liked the AI elevators all with their own very distinct personalities: an opera-singing elevator called Luciano; the trouble-maker Mischief; Whispers, who only ever shouts; and Lord Kensington, an elevator full of self-importance. It’s a very visual book and so many of the scenes are cinematic in tone. Understandably, the film rights to Amari and the Night Brothers have already been snapped up and if ever there was a book that would translate brilliantly to the screen – this is it!
Amari and the Night Brothers is a really exciting read. It’s full of twists and turns and kept me guessing all the way through. There’s never a dull moment and you really are swept along for the ride. The book is the first in an exciting new trilogy and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Egmont Books for sending me a proof copy of this book to review. I reviewed it as part of The Write Reads blog tour.