#MG Review: Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston

Cover image by Brittany Jackson, published by Farshore, 1st September 2022

The second adventure in the Amari series, Amari and the Great Game, is an absolute must-read for anyone of 9+ who loves a thrilling magical adventure. This story crackles with imagination, ripples with plot twists and ultimately delivers an explosive finale which sets up the continuation of the series.

Don’t worry if you have not read the first instalment, Amari and the Night Brothers, the back story is summarised in the opening chapters allowing you to enjoy this book as a standalone. However, I am pretty certain that reading this story will encourage you to seek out and read the opening book in the series if you have not already done so. The imaginative world-building of a contemporary Atlanta, where supernatural creatures live amongst the human population, disguised to all but members of the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, is perfectly constructed. Reading this series has given me the same sense of excitement at entering an alternative universe as I had when reading the Harry Potter books to my children more than 20 years ago.

Here, we join our main protagonist Amari, a 13 year-old black girl from the housing projects, as she adjusts to her new-found fame amongst the supernatural community following her recent defeat of fellow magician, Dylan van Helsing. Dylan had been working for the scourge of the magical world, Moreau Night and had double-crossed his master in a bid for domination of the community of magicians. The supernatural social media platform Eurg is filled with stories and video of Amaria and Dylan’s magical duel, but not all the commentary is in Amari’s favour. There are elements in the supernatural world who do not trust magicians and believe that everyone with this magical power must be evil simply because the Night Brothers who started the Ancient War, were magicians.

The plot of this compelling story revolves around the issue of scapegoating and “othering” certain sections of a community and the way that individuals with tyrannical intentions can manipulate media and thus populations to sow division, create unrest and grab power. With subplots involving the secret League of Magicians; dark magick which enables time to be frozen; friendships put under strain when communication goes awry; and a deadly game from which only one magician can emerge with their magic intact, this is a narrative that will keep readers turning the pages long after bedtime! The time freeze that occurs at the start of the book has left most of the supernatural world’s ruling council inanimate and Amari and her loyal band of friends are determined to investigate and discover who is behind the plot to seize control of their world. I won’t give any more plot details for fear of ruining anyone’s enjoyment.

Amari is a fantastic main protagonist and the friendship portrayed with Elsie is one which many young readers will relate to, with tension and misunderstandings but ultimately loyalty and mutual support. Her love for older brother Quinton is beautifully rendered, as she rises to every challenge to free him from the curse that Dylan cast on him. For this reader, Amari’s most important quality is the ability to believe that there is goodness in everyone, including her nemesis Dylan. Despite his betrayal of her, and the resultant UnWanteds Policy of the new Deputy Prime Minister prompted by the fear of magicians that he has caused, she continues to insist that Dylan retains a kernel of goodness. I think that this is such a hopeful element in a wonderfully entertaining novel for middle grade readers.

Amari and the Great Game was published on 1st September 2022 and I am most grateful to Hannah Penny and Farshore Books for my review copy in return for my honest opinion.

If you are looking for an immersive, magical adventure for children of 9+, this is a book that I highly recommend.

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