cover image Blood at the Root (Blood at the Root #1)

Blood at the Root (Blood at the Root #1)

LaDarrion Williams. Labyrinth Road, $20.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-593-71192-7

Trauma triggers a Black boy’s dormant ancestral magic in debut author Williams’s exuberant contemporary fantasy series opener. When seven-year-old Malik Baron sees his screaming mother vanish from their Helena, Ala., home while surrounded by cloaked figures, blue fire erupts from his fingers, incinerating her assailants. Nobody believes Malik’s story, so he spends the next decade hiding his powers and moving between foster placements. At 17, Malik rescues his 12-year-old foster brother from an abusive home, and the two head west to start fresh. En route, a stranger conveys a letter from Malik’s estranged maternal grandmother, Mama Aya, inviting the brothers to live with her in New Orleans. Mama Aya reveals that magic is in their family’s blood, and enrolls Malik at his mother’s alma mater, Caiman University—a historically Black college for hoodoo and vodun practitioners. In addition to getting a “Blackgical” education, Malik vows to uncover the truth about his mother’s disappearance. Some action sequences are disorienting, and several characters’ villainous turns feel arbitrary. Still, through Malik’s slang-heavy first-person-present narration, Williams delivers a serpentine, high-intensity celebration of Black culture, history, and power. All major characters are Black. Ages 14–up. Agent: Pete Knapp, Park & Fine Literary. (May)