Amari and the Night Brothers is the debut middle-grade read from B.B. Alston. It is a thrilling, über-cool fantasy read full of mystery, wonderment, discovery and dark-magic; think Harry Potter meets Men in Black.
Thirteen-year-old Amari Peters lives in the Rosewood low-income housing projects with her hard-working mama. Amari lives in the shadow of her brother Quinton, a neighbourhood hero who graduated valedictorian from the private rich school for white kids and got offered scholarships to two Ivy League schools.
Quinton went missing six months ago and the police have had no luck in finding him, in fact they are convinced that he was involved in some shady dealings and that is the most likely reason for his disappearance. Amari is not convinced and is determined to find the truth. And when a suitcase appears in her wardrobe it is the beginning of a journey to a magical supernatural world that may hold the answers she so desperately craves…
Amari and the Night Brothers is a gripping middle-grade fantasy adventure that fizzes and bubbles with fantastical magic. The story centres around the fabulous Amari trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of her brother six months ago. And to do so she embarks on a magical adventure that leads her to The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, a place full of special agents, exciting rooms, magical powers, supernatural creatures, cool objects and a villain out to destroy the world.
Alston immerses readers into a marvellous new world that at once feels strangely familiar yet entirely new. The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs is a unique and magical fantasy world that feels like the Ministry of Magic has been taken over by the Men in Black. Think talking elevators, supernatural creatures roaming the corridors and rooms such as The Department of Supernatural Affairs, The Department of Creature Control and The Department of Hidden Places. Exploring The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs for the first time is incredibly exciting and Alston does a great job of building up a new and unique world that is easy to get excited about. Elsie, Amari’s weredragon room-mate, makes an excellent guide.
Fantasy it may be but Alston raises important issues. Racial discrimination, social injustice, bullying, friendship and family are all dealt with. What I like most is that Alston gives BAME children the opportunity to see themselves proudly represented as the main protagonist in a fantasy novel. And what a brilliant heroine Amari is. Her struggles are relatable and Alston does not shy away from the issues that many black kids face. In the real world, Amari is bullied by the rich white kids at the private school she goes to (she’s on a scholarship) and in the supernatural world she is ridiculed by the other trainees and even the agents because she’s not from a legacy family (those who have ancestors with supernatural powers). Despite all of this she is determined, resilient and will overcome any challenge that she is faced with especially if it means finding her brother.
Filled with an abundance of #BlackGirlMagic, Alston’s enchanting debut will leave readers hungry for the next instalment in 2022.
Recommended for 9+.