Black Arts is the first in the series by Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil. Set in Elizabethan England, it follow the story of Jack, a young thief who picks the wrong pocket at the Globe Theatre in London. The city is full of traders, preachers, thieves, and as Jack discovers, demons. An anti-witch fervour has taken over London, led by Nicholas Webb, who wishes to purge the city entirely from devilry and witchcraft. People are falling over themselves to hear him speak and he has created a sort of cult – but Jack hates him. Nicholas Webb killed Jack’s mother so he has his own agenda when roaming the streets. Jack vows to bring Webb down but he’s developed a funny eye, which could either help or hinder him. It allows him to see the demons.
Prentice and Weil manage to create a truly thrilling world in Black Arts through their wonderfully descriptive writing. London really comes alive in their story and they manage to make a place that is already familiar to me, seem quite strange and magical again. A lot of suspense is built up as you try to figure out what is really going on in the city and the motivations of the main characters. There are quite a few different key players in this story and none of them seem to be on the same team really, which forces you to keep reading to find out exactly what’s what. The story isn’t at all predictable and some characters that at first seem insignificant, actually turn out to be pretty important later on, so there are many layers to this story that are unfolded little by little.
I’d say that the target age range of this novel is between around 12 and 17 years old, but having read some other reviews on the internet, it seems that this story is loved by people of all ages and all genders. I would definitely class this as a young adult book, however, there were some scenes which I found quite disturbing, making this suitable for older readers too. Black Arts can be quite spooky at times and is exactly the sort of read I’d like to pick up nearer Halloween. This is perfect for those who like dark and mysterious stories where nobody is really the good guy.
Black Arts is a rather long novel, spanning almost 500 pages, and personally I found this far too long. The story was by no means boring, but I couldn’t help but feel that certain passages could have been removed and it would not have affected the overall story. I struggled in some places and the book took me quite a long time to real as a result but in the end I really enjoyed Black Arts.
All in all, I think Black Arts would make a great novel for fans of fantasy and adventure. This is the sort of book that can give you nightmares so if you’re a fan of the criminal underworld and interested in a story with demons thrown into the mix, then Black Arts is the story for you. This is book #1 in The Books of Pandemonium series and I’ve already got my hands on the second novel, Devil’s Blood, which is released in May 2016 and I can’t wait to read it!
Have you read Black Arts by Prentice & Weil? Do you have any other book recommendations of a similar nature? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks to David Fickling Books for providing me with a review copy!