Welcome to Blackwood is a YA, paranormal fiction novel by Western Australian author, Khaiah Thomson. This review is written by author, Cate Sawyer.
The Review: ‘Definitely 5 Stars’
I’m a fan of YA fantasy. My favourite authors are Kate Forsyth, Bernadette Rowley, Kim Wilkins, J. K. Rowling, L. E. Daniels, and Stephanie Meyer. I love nothing more than to be transported to new realms where the unimaginable becomes enticingly possible. I grew up wishing I could blink just like Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie and be transported to a glorious tropical paradise – which is kind of funny since I actually grew up in a semi tropical paradise. That reference, which no doubt gave away my age to some of you, goes to show just how universally entertaining good YA fiction is.
First love and supernatural abilities – we just never grow out of the absolute delight of these two experiences. When an author nails that sassy, first-love humour, they have me. And who doesn’t dream of flying, or being able to read other’s minds?
With her debut novel, Khaiah Thomson has leapt onto my list of favourite YA fantasy authors. Within the first few pages of Welcome to Blackwood I was hooked. I had a laugh out loud moment when Freya first came into contact with Beau and from then on I couldn’t put the book down. I read Welcome to Blackwood in just two days, which if you understand how busy the life of a mum with two toddlers is, you’ll know was a serious feat on my part. I’m thrilled that I was asked to be an early reviewer for Welcome to Blackwood, but now I’m itching to get my hands on Leaving Blackwood. I need to know if Welcome to Blackwood is a one-hit wonder, or if Khaiah Thomson is to remain on my list of favourite YA fantasy authors.
The lead character in Welcome to Blackwood, Freya, is a Syphon, meaning she can suck energy from people and nature. Her particular supernatural ability means that she spends much of her life in secret – normal and supernatural people both, tend not to enjoy having their energy sucked to within close to death. When she accidentally draws from a boy at a party, her and her family have to pack up and leave before she’s discovered. They return to her mother’s hometown, Blackwood, where supernaturals far outnumber mundanes (normal people). The town is split into two wolf packs, and Freya has until she’s 18 to decide if she’ll join a pack, or remain an independent. Both choices have pros and cons for a non-wolf Syphon.
She meets Beau, who can transform into a wolf – not that Freya knows that straight away. Initially, Beau is wary of her because he senses Freya’s powerful energy and doesn’t understand where her energy comes from. They clash, with Freya’s sass making for memorable scenes. But when Beau helps Freya out of a tricky situation, they are drawn close, much to the chagrin of both wolf packs.
Tensions develop in the town. But what nobody knows is that there is a much bigger, outside, threat stalking Freya. We see Freya mature into the fullness of her power when she’s faced with true evil. The climax is stunning. Just when I thought I had it all worked out, Thomson let me know I’m not as smart as I think I am.
Author, Khaiah Thomson, has drawn a vivid world with thrilling characters. Her style is outwardly relaxed, making Welcome to Blackwood an easy, enjoyable read. But what experienced authors know is how much skill is employed in sentence construction to present readers with the façade of an easy read. Thomson’s exposition is so finely tuned that I felt like I was Freya. I’ve only visited Perth (Thomson’s home town) once, but I do feel like Thomson drew on some of the spectacular Western Australian landscapes while creating Blackwood.
This one’s a no-brainer. I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that you should most definitely buy this book. And anyone you gift this book to, will thank you for introducing them to the Blackwood series.
I give Welcome to Blackwood the gold-stamped five stars.
Publishing Landscape in Australia:
Welcome to Blackwood is Hawkeye Publishing’s third traditionally published book, and they couldn’t have chosen a better author to include in their brand. It’s great to see the efforts being made all around Australia from these independent publishers continuing to offer diversity in opportunity for Australian writers. Some others to keep your eye on are Pantera Press, Wild Dog, Interactive Publications, and Affirm Press.
You can find Welcome to Blackwood in all good bookstores and libraries, or order from Hawkeye Books to be delivered direct to your door.
Cate Sawyer is an Australian children’s and adult author, and a writing competitions judge. Her books include Pelican’t Do It, The Umbilical Family, Discombobulated, It’s Raining Shoes, Places to Poop, and the writing guide: Winning Short Story Competitions. She lives in Queensland with her husband, son and daughter and believes that all forms of artistic expression are the drumbeats that hold communities together, weaving understanding, acceptance and celebration. She’s a huge fan of Australian TV & Film, with her latest TV series binge being Wonderland on Stan.