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Black Dog

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Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge--the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases--like for Natividad's father and older brother--Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad's mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister's Pure magic. Natividad's twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

443 pages, Paperback

First published January 26, 2014

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About the author

Rachel Neumeier

44 books485 followers
Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.

She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 167 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
May 23, 2017
4.5 stars. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Black Dog (2014) is a YA urban fantasy that takes the werewolf shapeshifter subgenre and puts some unusual spins on it. The teenage Toland siblings, 15½ year old twins Natividad and Miguel and their 18 year old brother Alejandro, have been orphaned in their Mexico home by a mass attack of enemy black dog shapeshifters led by their father’s long-time enemy. Alejandro is a black dog, Miguel is a normal human, and Natividad is what is known as a “Pure,” one of the rare girls born with magical powers, including the ability to cast protective spells and to quiet the wild shadow that is an inseverable part of those who are black dogs.

When their Mexican mother and American father both die in the attack, the three siblings follow their father’s last instructions: leave Mexico and travel all the way to Vermont, where there is a strong pack of black dogs called the Dimilioc, to which their father once belonged. Their hope is that the Dimilioc will take them in and protect them from their enemies. It’s a risky venture, since the Dimilioc are hostile and may reject them all or kill Alejandro. But Ezekiel, the young Dimilioc pack executioner, decides to take a change on taking them to meet the pack Master, and they’re given a chance. It doesn’t help their relationship with the Dimilioc, though, when their father’s enemy and his army of black dogs turn out to be on their heels, determined ― for some unknown reason ― to bring the Toland siblings down, and the Dimilioc along with them.

As a young Pure girl, Natividad is cherished by the Dimilioc black dogs … in a rather rough way (which one might expect of werewolves), since they expect her to marry one of them as soon as she turns 16. They do their best, however, to protect her against the terrible danger that threatens. But Natividad is determined to use her magic to protect the pack, as well as the humans that live in the nearby town, despite the personal danger to herself.

I initially fell in love with the world-building in Black Dog when I read this passage:
Certainly the newspaper people were right about the great increase in ‘werewolf’ violence, though the writers did not yet know enough to distinguish between the true black dogs and the mere campiadors, the little moon-bound shifters. What ordinary people thought they knew about ‘werewolves’ was still mostly wrong, even now, when the vampire magic that had fogged human perception for so long had thinned almost to nothing. The vampires had not been gone long enough, yet, for people to figure out the real shape of the world.
We’re in the aftermath of a huge battle that wiped out all the vampires, and now the black dogs can’t hide from humans any longer? Sign me up!

The black dogs are a little different than your standard werewolf; they put me in mind of the fiery Presa Canario shapeshifter in Patricia Briggs‘ MERCY THOMPSON book Night Broken, or perhaps a mix of a wolf and an extremely large black Newfoundland dog. These shapeshifters are heavily influenced by the wild side of their nature, epitomized by their black shadows, which almost have a life of their own. This shadow also has some unusual benefits, such as instantly carrying away all but the most deadly, or silver-caused, injuries of the black dog. Most of the black dogs we meet in this novel are those born with the ability to shapeshift into the black dog at will; normal humans who are bitten by a black dog become the “moon-bound,” who involuntarily change shape with the full moon.

The Toland siblings, though they have an American father, are more heavily influenced by the Mexican part of their heritage and culture. This shows in their mindsets, including Natividad’s respect toward the Catholic religion and her use of the church building and crosses in her magical defense against evil forces. There’s a fair amount of Spanish language mixed into their dialogue and this story; most of it is either translated in passing, or the reader can discern the general meaning from the context. While I definitely appreciated reading a YA novel with a Latina heroine, I will say that the Kindle app’s translate function got used frequently while I was reading Black Dog.

Black Dog is a tension-filled and exciting urban (or perhaps rural in this case) fantasy, more about the conflict with evil than the romance, though there’s a hint of the latter. The characters are well-developed and Rachel Neumeier’s writing flows smoothly. Though this is the first book in a series and there are a couple of unresolved plot threads at the end, it can readily be read on a stand-alone basis. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the YA paranormal genre.

I received a free copy of this ebook from the author for review. Thanks!

Content note: violence, a high body count and a handful of F-bombs.
Profile Image for Regina.
625 reviews390 followers
February 3, 2014
Badass Book Reviews is giving away a signed copy today: http://badassbookreviews.com/intervie...

Initial thoughts -- I really enjoyed this book. It is a standalone and a longer novel that completely took me away. Black Dog is a very interesting take on werewolves and the supernatural. The dynamic between the characters was interesting and natural and the story built slowly but not obviously so. My main complaint is why is this a young adult novel? In the author's notes, the author states that this was originally written as an adult novel. My only guess is that it was changed for marketing? The set-up, travel across the country and the dynamics between the characters would have been more interesting if it had remained an adult story. But, I did really enjoy it and wish there would be more about these characters. Okay -- initial thoughts, full review to come!
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,482 followers
July 23, 2016
Black Dog was a refreshing change from some of the things that I really have become annoyed with in the YA genre. Who says that a YA book has to have a love triangle, insta love, the bad boy who you can reform or some guy that would be considered a stalker in real life to be interesting? Not me that is for sure. I almost thought that maybe I was too old to enjoy this genre anymore, I have not had a great luck and found myself eye rolling more and more at characters lately. Thank goodness that Black Dog is well written and doesn’t spend pages talking about how you can read someone’s feelings by the slight variation in their eye color, until lately in the YA genre I didn’t have any idea that blue eyes could be so many shades or express so much without words. Rachel Neumeier took the time to develop a story, a world, a plot and I thank her for it.

Natividad, Alejandro and Miguel are siblings born to a Black Dog male and a Pure female. The mythology of the Black Dog a.k.a. werewolf is the most similar comparison I have and Pure or magical is different than others I’ve read, a very new twist to the classic genre. After the murder of their parents the siblings embark to try and find the Dimilioc an ancient line of Black Dogs that value and protect the Pure. It is risky, the Dimilioc will want Natividad who is Pure like her mother, but might not welcome her brothers Alejandro another Black Dog or her twin Miguel who is only human. But the siblings need the Dimilioc if they are going to have any chance surviving and escaping the man that murdered their parents. They all must all prove themselves useful to the Dimilioc if they want to stay together. The bond between the siblings that carried them so far and made them risk so much to protect each other was a nice change of focus for a YA story.

There are a lot of things I liked about this tale. The story is told from both the perspective of Natividad and Alejandro. This enabled the author to give us a better understanding of the magic the Pure possess, how the shadow of the Black Dog works and the symbiotic relationship of them. The culture of the Black Dogs is explored and explained as to how they deal with each other and how they deal with those who are human. I really liked knowing what it felt like to have a shadow that rose into a black dog, how the shadow was like a separate thing living inside Alejandro that he had to control and fight with constantly his wants and his Black Dog’s want were not the same.

The beginning takes a little time to set up the story, but there is enough action happening that the story progressed rapidly. There is a twinge of a romance between Natividad and Ezekiel one of the Dimilioc. Ezekiel is the executioner for the Dimilioc but he is always respectful to Natividad, he is a wolf and there is a bit of alphaness to him but he is never overtly controlling of her, only the other wolves, which I was so happy to see in a YA novel. The romance aspect is slight but cute, this is more about the survival against the foe and the dark powers at work against them. Natividad is brave and really someone you want to get behind. She makes mistakes but is always trying to protect those around her. I really wanted to understand the magic of the Pure a little more, but it was shown quite well throughout the story.

There have been so many werewolf type books lately but I really think this is a new twist to the genre. It has some heavy Hispanic influences throughout that add a nice touch of culture. Black Dog is a standalone novel and resolves itself nicely. If you are tired of instalove, mooning over the exact color of someone’s eyes and want a story driven by a plot I recommend giving this a try. It was exactly what I needed to give myself some hope for the entire genre.

ARC provided by Angry ROBOT ltd and Strange Chemistry thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 25 books780 followers
February 6, 2014
This is one of those pick-it-up-and-read-til-done books, gripping and engrossing. Something of a surprise to me, given that I am generally not at all interested in werewolf stories, which are too often a morass of gender essentialism, abuse treated as sexy, and all the things I just don't like to read at all.

That is not this book.

This book posits werewolves (or black dogs) as demonic instinct in need of a civilising force, a force that comes in the shape of the Pure, who are female members of black dog families born with a kind of Christian virtue (which has nothing to do with 'purity'/virginity and far more to do with purification) that allows them to make family and clan possible. It's a world-building as thorough and fascinating as McKinley's Sunshine.

The characters, too, are far outside the posturing often associated with the genre, instead offering up a broad array of people working to survive in the aftermath of a bloody war, struggling with the destructive black dog instinct, and managing to show each other a good deal of kindness and courtesy as they move beyond the dark past not only of the war, but of the less positive black dog traditions. I really liked all three of the siblings, and swiftly expanded that enjoyment to practically every character met, most of whom happily overturned expectations and threw tired old tropes over their shoulders in order to be defiantly themselves.

Very much looking forward to book 2.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,712 reviews404 followers
March 3, 2019
I had expected better out of such an interesting premise as touted in the blurb: a Pure girl with magical powers, a shapeshifter elder brother and a fully human & non-magical younger brother travelling to the US from Mexico in search of a pack to be taken into as per the desires of a murdered father. The nature of the shapeshifters was also very interesting, as they look like an unique class of shifters that take from both wolf and dog, as well as the nature of the girl's magic being that it protects the shifters from their darker side.

Sounds about catchy, doesn't it? However, the worldbuilding leaves a lot to be desired; it's rather weak and it was never quite clear to me why exactly the magic is how it is as well as why the shifters are like they are. And on top of that, for writing a story with Hispanic characters, the author's use of Spanish is terrible: she either shifts to Spanish words for stuff that have perfect equivalents in English, just for the exotic flavour I suppose, and she often uses Spanish incorrectly, with grammatical errors and sometimes wrong personal pronouns in conjugation. Come on! Get at least a beta reader that knows Spanish to correct you! It's not like the US is lacking in speakers of this language. I'm frankly surprised the author is being praised for using Hispanic characters like it's something praiseworthy all by itself instead of being called out for misusing the language.
Profile Image for Heidi.
756 reviews175 followers
March 20, 2014
4.5 Stars

If ever you’re looking to blur the lines between adult and young adult fantasy, look no further than the enigmatic Rachel Neumeier. With a volume of work that can never quite be pinned down neatly into one category and with stories more complex than could be conveyed in any blurb, Neumeier strikes a unique balance between the worlds of children and adults.

Her work is, quite frankly, magical.

I’ve found myself entranced by a number of Neumeier’s creations—enough that I have been able to notice an established pattern in her writing. Neumeier’s work is always politically underscored, she embraces the complexities of clashing cultures and always challenges her characters (and readers) to see beyond their natural borders. Her books are each balanced between several points of view, somehow always catching me by surprise when I become as deeply engrossed with her male characters as her female (yes, I’ll admit it, I identify better with female characters—doesn’t mean I don’t try to challenge myself). Neumeier always creates an underlying thread of romance so subtle it could go unnoticed, a tactic I find refreshingly charming when so much fantasy, particularly in the YA world, seems to have prioritized romance over substance. But the final defining characteristic of a Rachel Neumeier book is my favorite—the elaborate magical structures that form her worlds.

Neumeier creates magical rules with such certainty that it doesn’t even matter that us as readers aren’t privy to all of them. Personally, I detest feeling like a not-so-eager school child when I crack open a new fantasy world and the author sits me down to explain How Things Work. With Rachel there’s never once been a dreaded explanatory tangent, and the trust she shows her readers is a credit to her craft. Nearly all of her works are stand alone, and yet she has somehow learned to draw readers in and immerse them directly into her worlds without an orientation meeting. Her characters know the world so well that we as readers are able to understand the smooth flowing mechanics by watching them function.

With Black Dog, however, Neumeier entered an untrodden realm—Urban Fantasy. I was thrilled when I discovered that one of my favorite high fantasy authors was dipping her toes into werewolf lore and urban fantasy. See, I fell in love with urban fantasy about two years ago. Previously I was a strict high fantasy kind of girl, and then women like Kate Daniels, October Daye, and Mercedes Thompson came crashing into my life, and suddenly my eyes were open. There was this whole new sect of fantasy I’d never experienced that was so fast-paced and engrossing that I couldn’t put them down. I love the lore of the supernatural and seeing how each author takes on these things we all feel we know in unexpected ways. So coming into Black Dog I had no idea what to expect. Would it be too similar to others? Would Rachel Neumeier lose that spark that threads so strongly between each of her books? Would it be totally awesome?

Why yes, yes it would. Be totally awesome that is. Black Dog in no way reflects too heavily on any other lore I’ve encountered (I’ve heard it compared to Eilieen Wilk’s World of Lupi series which I have yet to read, but only in a positive light which very much makes me want to jump all over that bus), and not only that, it’s still so very much her. Everything about Black Dog screams to me that it is a Rachel Neumeier book, and yet it’s such a different track for her that I don’t know if I’d pinpoint her as the author if I went in blind.

Black Dog sheds the fantasy clichés of a buildup to war or a discovery of power and dives right into the aftermath. The war has already happened. A vampiric miasma that kept the human population unaware of the supernatural for centuries has lifted, leaving the world free from their grasp and now vulnerable bystanders to the power struggles of the fall out. Because what’s left over after the war? Black Dogs. Black Dogs aren’t really werewolves at all; they aren’t bound to the moon (though those exist, too), they are born rather than created, and they certainly aren’t inclined to run in packs. Those few ‘civilized’ groups of Black Dogs that existed kept order over strays and protected the Pure women who could perform protective and calming magics, but those groups have dwindled to nearly nothing in the battle. Three siblings, one Pure, one Black Dog, and one human, seek refuge with the Dimilioc, the group of Black Dogs that rule from the Northeastern United States, unintentionally leading their own enemy to Dimilioc’s gates.

Black Dog is the ideal recipe. If you want to read it strictly for its entertainment value, you certainly can—it revs up quickly and doesn’t slow down until the final pages. But for those readers who want something deeper it’s also more than that. Neumeier beautifully and respectfully incorporates Mexican and American culture and sets the stage for her patented challenging perspectives by giving us the viewpoints of light and dark, brother and sister, Black Dog and Pure. She creates the type of familial relationship that is so often neglected in anything but Middle Grade literature, and through these siblings we are able to see and understand all aspects of her world. The Black Dogs that must struggle to separate themselves from their shadows, the humans that have something to offer if given the chance, and the Pure that are meant to protect rather than be protected. The siblings force a centuries old culture to reevaluate itself, and take on a horrifying new enemy that is beyond their previous imaginings.

The one issue I could see readers taking lies with the romantic aspects of this book. Our primary female character, Natavidad, is only 15 years old. Because of the relationship that exists between Black Dogs and Pure, she fully expects upon entering Dimilioc territory to be forced into a relationship with a (potentially much older) Black Dog. While the politics and traditions of the world surrounding Pure/Black Dog relations are colored with uncomfortable and unappealing notions, it is recognized that Natavidad is too young. Of course, waiting six months till she’s 16 to pair her up also seems a bit young, but I was personally unperturbed given the world building that supported this. The romance in Black Dog is both more overt and more nonexistent than in other works. Natavidad is very clearly courted by one of the Black Dogs, and yet, we are not forced as readers to see the long-term results of any choice she might make. To me, the Pure/Black Dog relationship created interesting conflict and dynamics within a group of creatures constantly charged and on the edge. I thought it was well handled.

Black Dog is, like the characters within its pages, frightening and beautiful and solid right down to its core. While I went in excited and unsure, I came out on the other side feeling that this might just be my favorite Rachel Neumeier book yet (admittedly, I think that after every Rachel Neumeier book I read). I couldn’t recommend Black Dog more. If you love a great stand alone, if you’re craving a unique new take on some well-worn lore, or if you’re a fan of urban fantasy in general, pick this one up.

Review originally posted at Tor.com.
Profile Image for Brandy Painter.
1,607 reviews229 followers
February 1, 2014
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

I love that when I pick up a Rachel Neumeier novel I am always surprised at what I end up getting. (In a very good way.) She is such a diverse writer and covers so many different types of fantasy and characters. I went into Black Dog the slightest bit wary because I don't ordinarily enjoy paranormal fantasy, but I trusted her enough to know it would probably be something I ended up liking in the end. I didn't like it, I LOVED it.

(This is a review of an ARC received in exchange for a fair review.)

When I did my TTT wish list a few weeks ago I said I would love to see more sibling stories in YA, and that is what Black Dog is first and foremost. The whole story centers around the bond between Alejandro, Natividad, and Miguel, a black dog, a Pure girl, and a human boy, and their love and loyalty to each other. After the death of their parents, they flee to the only place they imagine they will be safe. While dealing with their grief and tragedy, they must learn to navigate the politics and personalities of the powerful black dog family who has taken them in and begin to trust people outside of each other for the first time. The story is told in third person and follows all three of them, with a stronger focus on Natividad and Alejandro. And through all three of them the reader also gets a thorough introduction to Dimilioc's Master and Executioner, Grayson and Ezekiel. I love all these characters so much, but I particularly enjoyed the book when it followed Alejandro. It was fascinating to look through his eyes as he shifted between a human body and that of a black dog. There is a wonderful exploration of the duality in human nature between light and dark. This is also there in Natividad and Miguel, but in more subtle ways. Natividad is a stubborn and independent soul. She is mourning her parents, working hard to keep peace in her new home at a time of war, and knows that as a Pure girl her job is not to be protected but to protect. The men her life all want to protect her, but she does what she knows needs to be done. This often puts her in danger, but I never felt she was being unthinking or stubborn for the sake of proving her independence. She did what needed doing. I had a great respect for her as a character. Miguel is the strategist and critical thinker. He is also incredibly persuasive when he wants to be. The three siblings make a terrific team. Ezekiel, who was chosen for his role of executioner at the age of 13, is a complicated character. Through all three Toland siblings different sides and nuances of his character are shown. I found that I wanted more about him still though. He is thoroughly fascinating. My one complaint is that I wanted more of him and less Grayson (who is interesting but not as interesting).

The world of Black Dog is an intensely interesting one. It takes place in contemporary times and picks up following a war between vampires and the Black Dogs. The vampires lost and are gone, but the black dogs did not fare much better. Black dogs, as much as they may sound like it, are not werewolves. Neumeier did new and interesting things with the old stories here and I enjoyed the combination of legend, magic, and politics. A outside threat to Dimilioc involves a renegade black dog who is after the Tolands, most particularly Natividad, for the power she wields. Neumeier did not shy away form the consequences of vicious creatures at war with each other. This book has a pretty high body count and is quite gruesome in some respects. I loved the realism of this. I can't stand it when situations like this are made unrealistically safe for the protagonists and the people they love. Or when innocent bystanders remain unaffected. This is a story that shows all of that, and then tackles the emotional consequences as well. Nativdad, as a Pure girl, is expected on her 16th birthday to choose one of the Dimilioc dogs as her mate. Ezekiel makes it quite clear he is going to destroy anyone other than him that she picks. The two of them share some intense moments, but there is no strong romantic element to the story, something I also appreciated. (I'm choosing to assume here that Natividad's relationship with Grayson is NOT heading in that direction because that squicks me out.) The book takes place over only a week's time, and they are fighting a war. Natividad is confused, and Ezekiel is determined, but mostly they are just trying to stay alive.

Black Dog has so many elements I look for in my favorite books: strong characterization, deep and layered relationships, rich setting and world-building, and an intense plot that doesn't shy away from the darker elements it explores. It is going on my favorites shelf and will be one I revisit again. And I'm really hoping there will be a sequel sooner rather than later. (I've heard there is going to be one, though this works perfectly as a stand alone.)

I read an e-galley received via the publisher, Strange Chemistry, on NetGalley. Black Dog is available on February 4th.
Profile Image for Gail Carriger.
Author 55 books14.9k followers
December 13, 2018
I enjoyed it very much. I believe it's being market as YA, not sure if I would put it there, but in this day an age of ebooks who minds the marketing... or the cover art for that matter. I picked it up thinking it was a stand alone, and it holds well enough as such, but I believe it may actually be the beginning of a series.

Neumeir has developed a rich world full of history. Most recently, there was a war against vampires into which the black dogs (werewolves, sort of) were drawn and many killed. Also, effected were the increasing rare Pure, or witches. Navidad is Pure, her older brother a black dog, and her twin is a normal human, if a bit of a smart ass. The book opens with them on the run, both parents recently murdered, leaving Mexico for Vermont and a pack of werewolves from which they hope to plead sanctuary.

I like the dynamic of the black dogs. The submissive behavior into which those around them are thrown smacks of abusive relationships, or survivors of alcoholic parents. This troubled me a bit, but worked for the darkness of the world's mythos where black dogs are basically daemon spawn. Navidad, as a result, suffers from lack of agency at the beginning, and when she does act it is willfully against her own self interest. These are qualities in main characters I tend to avoid but...

Neumeir's writing held me riveted. She has a deft touch with description, almost glorifying the sensation of displacement experienced by the siblings. I think she writes best when she has switched POV to one of Navidad's brothers, rather than Navidad herself. Also I loved her supporting characters, both the pack and those who are brought in as the story progresses.

"Zachariah Korte smiled, barely, as though expressions were meant to be horded, as though he might use up his share and never be able to smile again."

I was a little confused by some of the world rules, for example the Pure are not supposed to marry black dogs, yet the first thing that happens when Navidad arrives in the pack, is the werewolves try to claim her. Could be I wasn't reading close enough to get the complexities.

I felt like Navidad came into her own by the end, as she relaxed into her new role with the pack she got witty dialogue, developed friendships, and explored a burgeoning romance. I hope she develops more power and agency as the series progresses, both as a character and within the story. I'm certainly on board for the next book, should it materialize.
Profile Image for Chachic.
586 reviews204 followers
March 5, 2014
Originally posted here.

I enjoyed reading Rachel Neumeier’s House of Shadows so I jumped at the chance to read Black Dog when I was offered a review copy. I was intrigued when I first found out the premise of the book. Also, I wanted to see how Rachel’s writing will translate from epic fantasy to urban fantasy.

It’s been weeks since I finished reading Black Dog and I still have fond memories of it. I remember staying up late one week night to finish reading this novel. It didn’t take that much effort for me to be immersed in the story and I found myself absorbed until I reached the end. I found the characters intriguing and felt that the worldbuilding was solid. I like how the reader is thrown into the story without lengthy descriptions, you just learn more about the world as you keep reading. The magic in this world can be found in black dogs and the Pure. Black dogs are shapeshifters who can change from their human to black dog forms as needed. While Pure women are able to wield their magic to invoke peace and to protect other people from malicious magic. The calmness that the Pure can provide serves as a counterpoint to the anger and violence that are part of a black dog's nature. Natividad is a Pure, her brother Alejandro is a black dog while her twin Miguel is human. I like how these three siblings each have their own strengths and weaknesses. They each have something to contribute to their family, and eventually the Dimilioc clan. Even Miguel, who has no supernatural abilities, has skills in other areas. Aside from having magical skills, I also found it interesting that these siblings are half-Mexican and half-American. They were brought up in Mexico but had to flee to North America to run away from danger, and to hopefully gain allies in the Dimilioc clan. The Dimilioc black dogs also have a mix of interesting characters and I was curious about them as well.

I like how the point of view shifts from Natividad to Alejandro, giving us a better understanding of what this world is like from both Pure and black dog perspectives. I did wonder if the story would have been richer if we also got Miguel’s POV but it wasn’t a major issue. Black Dog was such an enjoyable read for me. I liked how the story progressed until the climax was reached. So many things happened in a short span of time but I thought the events were paced well. I really wasn’t able to predict how things will go, so I kept turning the pages to find out. It’s a good introduction to the world in this series and it made me want to read the sequel even though it hasn’t even been released. I would be more than interested to find out how the members of the Dimilioc clan will adapt based on recent changes that they’ve implemented. The world is on the cusp of change as they enter a new age where vampires no longer exist. I found that aspect of the story intriguing, as well as the history and culture of black dogs. There’s also a tentative romance in the first book that I’m hoping will be further developed in the sequel. I felt that the love story was barely there and would have loved more scenes between the two characters. I also thought that Black Dog had beautiful writing - here's a non-spoilery snippet to illustrate my point:

"Out there in the cold, mountains rose against the sky, white and gray and black: snow and naked trees and granite and the sky above all... The sky itself was different here, crystalline and transparent, seeming farther away than any Mexican sky. The sun seemed smaller here, too, than the one that burned across the dry mountains of Nuevo Leon: this sun poured out not heat, but a cold brilliant luminiscence that the endless snow reflected back into the sky, until the whole world seemed made of light."

Further proof of how much I enjoyed reading this book was that it reminded a little of the World of the Lupi series by Eileen Wilks, which was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I’m happy to report that I feel like Rachel Neumeier made a successful foray into urban fantasy with Black Dog. Like I said, I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.
Profile Image for Beth.
1,145 reviews114 followers
February 26, 2014
This is a book about werewolves and YA tropes. And yeah, that's five stars. I began Black Dog at about 12:30 AM and thought I'd read a few pages; I went to sleep after 3. I'll need to reread this to review it properly, because right now my thoughts are buried under so-tired-need-more-sleep incoherence, but: what writing this book's got. What a strong sense of family drives the characterization. It's about werewolves and tropes, sure, but it also sneakily addresses those tropes while utilizing them in a way that acknowledges why they became tropes in the first place. (Which is something that struck me about Neumeier's The City in the Lake, too.)

Things I still need to think about: how the Spanish phrases affected the flow of the writing, how Ezekiel's behavior fits with other physically strong male YA possible male love interests and specifically werewolf love interests, how the book really held up once new characters were introduced.

For now, though, for utter enjoyment level, it's five stars. This hasn't displaced The Floating Islands to become my favorite of the books she's written, like it did for Brandy, but that's because I'll always enjoy fantasy - and more political fantasy at that - over anything paranormal.
Profile Image for Emma Adams.
Author 78 books913 followers
April 3, 2014
Thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for allowing me to review this book.

It’s rare to find an original YA urban fantasy in a genre somewhat saturated by tired tropes, so I was pleasantly surprised when this book turned out to be so unique. Rather than opening with a ton of info-dumping or endless buildup, we’re thrown right into the middle of the world of black dogs and magic users, but not so much as to make it hard to keep up. Natividad and her brothers, Miguel and Alejandro, escape a massacre that destroys their village, fleeing to the only place of safety – Dimlioc, the home of the black dogs. While her brothers are black dogs, Natividad is a Pure, able to wield magic, and is allowed to stay only if she chooses a black dog mate.

This is a really unique take on werewolves/shifters, one in which they’re violent and barely-controllable, and have just survived a brutal war with vampires. The world-building and mythology are woven into the story beautifully, and the writing is clear yet immersive. A well-written and original book, one I’d recommend to fans of urban fantasy looking for something a little different. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books from this author!
Profile Image for Cecelia.
399 reviews209 followers
February 19, 2014
I am intrigued by the idea of werewolves, and I know I am not the only one out there (see: the popularity of paranormal fiction and film). Even more than werewolves themselves, I’m interested in the mythology and world-building it takes to make a story with werewolves in it viable and more-or-less believable. So: I was interested, and I’d heard about Rachel Neumeier’s Black Dog, But what actually got me reading? Stephanie Burgis’ tweet and Liviana’s review. All at once I felt a pull toward the book – you could even say it was like the lure of the full moon (if you wanted to be incredibly cheesy) – and I am so glad I heeded that call. The puns, they just write themselves…

Natividad and her brothers Miguel and Alejandro are on the run – and they’re hoping that their destination will offer a refuge. Hoping, but not counting on it. Natividad’s parents were killed in Mexico in an attack from their father’s enemy, and now they’re fleeing to his homeland Dimilioc, in Vermont. Dimilioc is their only option, despite its repulation. Natividad is Pure, a rare girl who can use magic, her twin Miguel is human, and Alejandro is a black dog, a shifter. And Dimilioc is famous for being the home of the most vicious and protective black dogs – black wolves – in North America. But before they can find a place in Dimilioc, they will have to prepare for a battle against the enemy that followed them across a continent.

I REALLY liked this book. It had unique werewolf lore, diversity, fantastic world-building, beautiful writing, layered characters and an intense fight for survival (aka plot). Wait, I need to write more?! Ha. Let’s go with Natividad. She’s a girl who has recently lost her home as well as her mother, but she’s still intensely protective and caring. She’s not surrendering to anger or turning her emotions into reasons to fight. She doesn’t always know the answer, she sometimes acts rashly, but she’s constantly learning and hoping and surviving, driven all the time by love for family. I wonder if it is possible NOT to fall in love with Natividad.

Even if Natividad didn’t carry the story, there’s Dimilioc and its complicated hierarchy, and Miguel and Alejandro struggling to find a place in it – all the while wondering if death is around the next corner. It’s pretty intense stuff, and that’s not even counting the fight against Malvern Vonhausel, their father’s old enemy. Add in the very nature of black dogs, where the ‘shadow’ of their other self is always trying to overtake their human side, and you have a setting rife with tension and anger, shame and secrets that keep trust from taking root. And still, that’s not all.

Neumeier has written a story where familial relationships shine. Miguel and Alejandro and Natividad are the obvious family unit, but so too are the Dimilioc wolves. The give and take of those relationships adds layers of depth to every character – there are no cardboard representations in Black Dog. Also wonderful: the diversity of those characters and families, and the Spanish dialogue that Natividad and her brothers fall into unwittingly or use to describe their magic/nature. The obvious contrast of Mexico and Vermont adds to the strangeness of the situation for the newcomers. As Natividad assimilates to her new environment, so does the reader. It’s really rather genius.

You may have noticed that I have said nothing yet about the fact that Natividad, due to her status as Pure, must choose a mate (it’s right there in the official summary). I understand that this is part of the culture/tradition in this setting, but it still made me uncomfortable in the extreme, especially at the beginning. I believe Neumeier deals with this element well (by narrowing the field almost immediately), but the fact remains that all of Natividad’s dealings with the Dimilioc wolves have at least a double meaning. Of course they value her magic, but they value her possible fertility even more. I can’t decide if I think this is creepy enough to be a true reservation, or adds to the world-building. Probably a little bit of both.

I will certainly be reading the sequel, and I very much enjoyed the book overall. It’s young adult fantasy with a bite, and the tension and pace compliment the characterization and plot wonderfully well.

Recommended for: fans of werewolves and unique paranormal lore, those who like diversity, great world-building and solid characters, and anyone who loved Robin McKinley’s Sunshine or Anne Bishop’s Written in Red.
Profile Image for ☼Bookish pam in Virginia☼ .
1,174 reviews47 followers
March 2, 2014
**4.5 STARS**

BLACK DOG is one of my favorite YA books of 2013.

The urban-fantasy, which revolves around 3 siblings, is warm and touching with it's familial affection, and it's a book I already know I'll re-read. Something I very rarely do these days. (It's definitely a comfort read for me.)

BLACK DOG begins with Natividad, Miguel (her twin), and their older brother, Alejandro, on a bus. In short order we learn that they have just lost their parents, and that they are running for their lives --from Mexico to frigid Vermont.

The siblings have been born into a rare family, where the father is Black Dog (a huge werewolf), and the mother is imbued with magic --which in this book is called being 'pure'. The children are mixed. Miguel is a human like us. Alejandro is a Black Dog, like his father. And Natividad is pure.

The narrative starts out in Natividad's voice, but eventually we get to see events from the perspective of the siblings.

The teens arrive in Vermont where they plan to throw themselves on the mercy of the 'clan' leader. What they don't know is whether they will all be accepted, or if they will forced to split up. It's chancy whether a human or another Black Dog will be even allowed to live.


What I love about this book is the world building with it's Spanish sensibilities and tone. I also liked the new werewolf mythology and I thought Rachel Neumeier did a fantastic job of making the magic reasonable, and the motivation of all the characters understandable.

If Natividad was given the role of the girl who makes stupid decisions in order to create some drama, I don't hold it against the book. For there are many more moments in which her character redeems itself.

The secondary characters were good as well. There's hardly a one I don't want to know more about.

Probably the greatest flaw for me were the villains. It's odd, because the secondary characters on the 'good' side were so well done. But the villains were not given the same attention, so I never felt the supreme threat that was probably intended.

BLACK DOGis adult worthy. It's a smart, interesting book with good world-building and an interesting premise. It's not perfect. But I thought the writing and storyline more than make up for any flaws.

**If you enjoyed WRITTEN IN RED, definitely consider BLACK DOG.
Profile Image for Leontiy [princeofbookandbone].
247 reviews25 followers
January 16, 2014
Originally reviewed at Jet Black Ink

I’d been awaiting Black Dog, by Rachel Neumeier, with a sort of vague interest: I wasn’t sold (I don’t like the cover, at all, and even after reading, I find the title confusing and that it conjures up the wrong images for the book – I’ll expand later) but I gave it a go. For around the first quarter of the book I was interested. The characters were interesting, the plot seemed to be going somewhere good and generally, it was original. I love the inclusion of characters that are different (the Mexican-American POV characters were definitely a bonus point of the book) and a different sort of approach to the setting and material at hand intrigued me.

With her twin brother (who is present and alive and not a plot device by being dead and stuff, because I am so over dead siblings) and her elder brother, Natividad’s story begins on the run. She is headed for Dimilioc in hopes of finding refuge and safety and protection in the midst of the black dogs her American father used to be part of. Alejandro, her black dog big brother, doesn’t hold much hope that they will be accepted, but they were both convinced by the very persuasive and savvy Miguel that coming here was the best way to seek protection from the powerful black dog who slaughtered their parents and destroyed their lives.
It remains to be seen, however, if Miguel is right, since the welcome they receive might be enough to ruin all their plans. Never mind the fact that if he is to be accepted as a Dimilioc black wolf, Alejandro is going to have to learn both trust and control. But with a powerful enemy snapping at their heels, the addition of new Toland (their father) blood and even a Pure girl into Dimilioc might not be enough. A war has been fought and even though the vampires are gone, there are plenty of stray black dogs to join with their enemy’s army.

There is a lot going on, a lot of back story that we’re fed in small chunks throughout. However, there is never really enough to pull in interest and keep it. The story very much so revolves around Natividad’s family.

But then I realised, a little over half way through, that I just didn’t care. I didn’t find I could connect with either Natividad or Alejandro and the characters I might have best connected with (Miguel, Keziah, Ezekiel) were not POVs. Although Alejandro’s narrative is skillfully woven through with elements of his black dog, so that we never forget what he is, it did become repetitive after a time. He might have been better as a side character, and Miguel instead taking the narrative.

As for Natividad… I couldn’t warm to her. Natividad is Pure, which means she can use magic. I…am not sure what I think of the terminology, what I think of “Pure”. I don’t think I like it. It doesn’t, for me, conjure up the image of someone who can use magic, but rather something else. Something that implies any without magic, are, by extension, impure.

But regardless, I found her impossible to connect with. There seemed to be no substance to her… Nothing to really grip onto. Nor is she shallow. She is a conundrum: bland and forgettable, yet she has such deep aspects of character that I should normally be drawn to. She’s suffering from what should be some kind of yellow or orange level PTSD (I say this based on the ending, and the fact that Natividad’s inner narrative reflects as much) yet this is not properly reflected in the story or the narrative. However, the ending is absolutely pivotal on this element of Natividad’s poorly conveyed trauma. A little research into PTSD or even psychology after trauma would have solved so many problems with her narrative. In this case, Natividad’s refusal to remember and think about what happened presents a problem for me: you cannot repress a memory consciously. You cannot choose to wipe something entirely from your memory. It is an unconscious thing over which you have no control. So, with the crux of things relying on Natividad’s choice not to think and remember the death of her parents (plus, the more you try not to think of something, the more the brain works on thinking about it: there’s a psych term for this – must ask big brother), it just didn’t wash. Add that to the fact that Natividad and I did not click… I was relatively bored by the end. Furthermore, I didn’t like the direction of the plot, and didn’t like how things progressed. It just wasn’t believable or enjoyable for me.

I did, however, like how Neumeier wasn’t afraid to delve properly into the complex yet very animal instincts and politics of black dogs. I think some readers might be a little perplexed by Natividad’s role as a Pure women within the black dog society, and how she is told she must essentially mate with another of the black dogs. She is immediately “claimed” by the strongest black dog (never mind the fact he’s close to her age and she is attracted to him regardless) and that essentially is that. Okay so on the surface it’s not very feminist. But. Readers must accept that this is a pack of wolves and she is a highly prized young woman. No harm will come to her; nobody will touch her without her consent. It’s not my ideal situation, but it’s how Neumeier chose to express a different way of life, the way the black dogs live. For me it’s potato, potahto. So there we have it.

Also: the title, the cover. Black Dog. Singular. To me, this should be plural (there is not just one black dog as the title suggests) or should be replaced by “Wolves”, therefore referencing the Dimilioc wolves.

Furthermore, why is only (presumably) Alejandro on the cover, to match with the singular black dog. Never mind the fact that a black dog is a symbol of death. It is very confusing. I loved how the cover wasn’t whitewashed, but actually hated the cover.

Generally, I am so indifferent to this book. I read it, I shrugged, I moved on. I did love how the narrative, the prose sounded slightly different, slightly unique (save for the slightly stilted dialogue in places), but that’s about it. I wasn’t sold and by the end, I simply was a bit meh. 2-star copy

Unfortunately, a great concept that just wasn’t realised in quite the right way to pull me in.
Profile Image for MB (What she read).
2,333 reviews14 followers
July 19, 2019
I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this book, best $1.99 I've ever spent!

The world-building is superb. And the characters were amazing. All interesting and 3-dimensional. I particularly liked the relationship between the three siblings, and how they interacted, and supported and strengthened each other. I liked the way the older male characters demonstrated leadership and strength in their interactions with others. This is a book heavy on strong male characters, and the series will obviously continue that theme.*

I usually don't like YA books due to their plethora of self-absorbed and spoiled characters seem to navel gaze about their specialness without any real need to grow up or take responsibility. This book is not one of those, and boy! was that refreshing. These teenagers were super. They had experienced total disaster and loss, they were in real actual danger, they cooperated and planned, they did amazing things, they supported each other, they built alliances, they gave and received respect...way to do YA, Ms. Neumeier! (Wish I could find more like this.)

I like the way Neumeier defines good and bad in werewolves as a matter of control. Good werewolves (Black Dogs) are able to control their insatiable urge to kill and fight, they are able to make alliances, and support each other and even empathize with humans. Bad werewolves can/will not, with one partial exception.

Amazingly well done! If the sequel were available right now, I would have snapped it up. It can't come soon enough for me.

I strongly recommend this book to you if you have enjoyed Robin McKinley's Sunshine, The Blue Sword, or The Hero and the Crown.

I also think this might be right down your alley if you like Written in Red by Anne Bishop or Patricia Briggs' Mercy Watson or Alpha and Omega series.

But, it's just good stuff! There are tantalizing hints of a future romance in here (crosses fingers), but so much of the story is told from the point of view of other (male) characters, that I think male readers should give this a try as well.*

Cover Art: Darn near perfect! Nice figure drawing, and the dramatic pose suits the plot.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
August 26, 2016
Rachel Neumeier has done some interesting things with werewolf legends in this absorbing, fast-paced novel. It is marketed as YA, but I think it's high end YA, in the same way Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Cold Town is: though there is a body count, with matching violence, that makes Kill Bill look tame, there is no sex whatsoever.

There is a tantalizing thread of UST in fifteen-year-old Natividad being the focus of a whole lot of supercharged males who barely have their testosterone rage (in the form of black dogs) leashed, and there is a Saudi female black dog who challenges the males with high-octane insouciance. It will be interesting to see how the next book develops both the relationships and the pack dynamics.

The plot line is simple enough: Natividad, her twin, Miguel, and their older brother Alejandro (who is a black dog) are on the run across the continental US from Mexico, where an evil black dog attacked and killed their parents, along with all their relatives and their entire village. They barely make it before the bad guys attack in force again.

Then the three have to fight alongside black dogs they barely trust, while everyone tries to figure out why this attack, and Natividad works to remember magic that her mother taught her, as she's "Pure" (A word I ordinarily am extremely skeptical of, but here it is just a noun meaning magical) and in her own way, every bit as powerful as the black dogs.

It's interesting watching Natividad and Alejandro, the swapping POVs, try to come to terms with all the changes in their lives, protect their siblings, master their skills, and work to understand those they come among. I'm not an automatic fan of werewolf stories (some are too horrific, especially in the sexual dynamics for wimpy me) but I am looking forward to more in this universe. I really like the way that Neumeier takes the time for her teens to explore and understand the subtleties of relationships as her teen characters reach for understanding. No easy insta-powers here.
Profile Image for Laura (Kyahgirl).
2,071 reviews144 followers
November 16, 2015
3.5/5; 4 stars B+

This was my first book by this author and I enjoyed it very much. Its the kind of fantasy I like; young people who are strong and resourceful, unusual magic, lots of character and community in the players. I will definitely read more in this series.
Profile Image for Li.
1,039 reviews29 followers
December 26, 2022
This isn't your everyday urban fantasy.  Yes, there are werewolves and action, but it’s full of feels and relationships, and of course, great worldbuilding.
Profile Image for Deniz.
1,146 reviews100 followers
August 6, 2016

Black Dog has left me in an extra-ordinary dillema, I have not a clue how to rate it. I mean NOT A CLUE. Look this is good. Really good. But not gushing-fan-girling-i-am-smitten good - no it's an entirely different kind of good...

I was excited about Black Dog because quite a few of my reading buddies had recommended Neumeier's books to me, saying that I would love them, as a result quite a few of her books were put on my TBR-list. But for some reason or the other I never actually read anything of hers. The blurb of Black Dog, was interesting- but the reason I actually wanted the ARC was the author.
In fact, while the blurb of Black Dog does sound interesting, I still feel a bit cautious about shifter-books, because honestly I am not sure they are my cup of tea. They are so often colored with the whole mate thing-- you know insta-lust with insta-love and the one and only thing, yeah not my cup of tea. So most shifter books only explore that side of the story. Hence my weariness about them.
Now Black Dog is not kind of a shifter book AT ALL. I think Neumeier could totally convert me to a shifter fan. Maybe she already has, just a little...

Simply put this isn't about the shifter-romance. Despite of what the blurb might indicate. There is a bit of romance- but if you expect to read a shifter romance, this will disappoint you. It's not about romance. It's more- way more. I am actually not sure I can summarize what Black Dog is about. Let me just say this is way deeper than many Young Adult books I have read lately. I think the best I could summaries this is: This is a story about finding a place and making a home, about loyalty and coming to terms with ones own qualities and limitations. And possibly about power and it's downfalls and benefits.

So not a YA PNR, though it has some hints of romance it in it. It is also not your easy quick adventure read. This is a carefully constructed book. Precise and to the point, there is action but the pace is some how slow. Neumeier doesn't do melodramatic or emotional, there is no teeny-angst or angst of any kind. No this is layers upon layers of a beautifully told story, each chapter revealing more and more. The end is absolutely perfect. Not an ending per se, but the end of that particular story. Just as the beginning is starts at a point of the MCs lifes... it ends at another point of their lives.
The story line is paced in a way that one had enough to wonder bout the plot, but is never lost.
The world building is absolutely awesome! My favorite part about the book. And yet again Neumeier is subtle about it. While this is somewhat dystopian, it's set in a parallel world to ours, that is well constructed and totally believable. The Black Dogs and Pures and the different paranormal aspects are interwoven with mythology and Neumeier's own brilliant inventions. It all comes together to form a believable and inspiring world- a place with basically 3different beings - dealing with the aftermath of a huge war. And again I was in awe of Neumeier's subtle touch, her way of adding slowly layers to her storytelling- so much so that it that one actually touches the depths of the existential differences of the different Races and what essential binds them together and what defines them. So it nearly is philosophical.
The story is told most of the time from the point of view of the three siblings- which is very clever because each belongs to one of the 3 Races. Each is coming to terms with who they are.
But I found it quite hard to relate to any character much. My favorite one was Natividad. Maybe because she is a girl or possibly just because. But even so, while Neumeier did a good job at narrating their story and showing us how they all grow and change, I can't say I feel like I know them. I just enjoyed the story.
By the way he fact that no-one used a nickname or shortened their at times rather long names for some odd reason mad me feel less able to connect to them. I know it's odd, but just reading NATIVIDAD or EZEKIEL kinda slowed me down every single time.

I loved the prose, though in the beginning it took me a while to get into it. I think this is not the kind of book one reads in one sitting but something to enjoy and savor slowly. As I read on Neumeier mesmerized me with her skills and I ended up really enjoying and loving the way she writes.
A beautiful and inspiring Urban Fantasy- with the quality of the great classics in fantasy. So in my opinion a must read for the lovers of fantasy novels.
And the good news is there will be another book set in this amazing world!
Find our interview with Neumeier here

So how to rate this? Well after pondering it, letting it settle for a long while, I came to the conclusion that it was not quite five stars for me, but more than 4... so a fabulous 4,5Stars!
Profile Image for Kathylill .
162 reviews173 followers
December 11, 2013
Another very good book from the publishers Strange Chemistry.

You know this feeling when something could have been perfect if it weren’t for some minor details that just don’t feel right.

So let’s start with what I really liked about the story:

The werewolves / black dogs
Awesome. Really. That was a new take on werewolves and a good one. They are brutal, violent and not to be trifled with. It was interesting to read about the way they interact among themselves, their sense of hierarchy and submission, how they fight and how they live.

The world building
Another interesting point is the situation they are in right now: After a hard war with the Vampires, who are now extinct, the black dogs still suffer from their losses. There are a lot of rogues, roaming freely and with the lack of enforcers the situation for the established ruling packs throughout the world is getting more and more difficult. It is time for change, time to redraft futile rules, time to think differently. Not so very easy for creatures who can’t change the very nature of their beasts. This setup was well integrated into the story and kept me interested throughout the book.

Rachel Neumeier’s Black Dog has its strengths but also a few weaknesses:

Why oh why does it have to be Young Adult?
This book would have been so much more engaging, so much better if the main characters were at least 18 or older. Natividad and her twin Miguel are both 15 years old. Their Brother Alejandro is 18. When their parents are slaughtered by enemy black dogs Natividad and her brothers are forced to find shelter with the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc.
What gritted me so much is that Natividad must choose a black dog mate. The only ones available are Grayson, the leader of the black dogs, who is at least 35 and Ezekiel, the executioner of the pack who is also the strongest fighter. Ezekiel is younger but even he is at least 5-6 years older than Natividad whose 16th birthday will be in 4 months.
Because of the more than uncomfortable premise and the age difference, the romance in this book is “on-hold” and almost non-existent. I personally would have wished for a more romantic love interest. Navi’s interaction with Grayson has the feeling of a father/daughter relationship but her interaction with Ezekiel isn’t one of romance either. He wants her for himself, not because of love or anything but rather because she is one of the very rare Pures.
In the end nothing is really solved in that regard and I suspect this is the start of series, or at least there will be another book coming and we will get more of Alejandro and Natividad.

The ramblings of a 15-year old Mary Sue
The book is told from two points of view: Alejandro and his sister, but with a slightly bigger focus on Alejandro and his struggles to fit in with the pack and protecting his siblings at the same time. What I missed completely was at least a bit of the story told from Miguel’s perspective. He is the sole human in this story and completely left out of the action.
Navi was hard to follow. Her language is full of insecurities and she is your typical Mary Sue: She is young, naturally beautiful, of course she is special and saves the day, can calm everybody down; all the male characters are attracted to her / want her for different reasons.

Apart from that I really enjoyed reading this nonetheless. The story was very interesting, fast paced and engaging. And if there is a second book coming out after this I will sure be reading it.
Profile Image for P. Kirby.
Author 5 books68 followers
August 6, 2014
I think there's a review or comment somewhere that suggests that Black Dog was originally written as an adult novel, with adult protagonists. Maybe that's why the narrative feels so awkward, like an adolescent boy, all bony shoulders, elbows and knees, stuffed into an ill-fitting suit.

The female protagonist, Natividad, for instance, reads more like an adult woman, though not in a particularly engaging manner. It's as though in editing her character to be younger, she was stripped of any flavor or personality. Even though the underlying premise has promise -- following the murder of their parents, three teens, including one werewolf, flee their home in Mexico to seek shelter with a powerful family of American weres -- Natividad is completely bland, a passive observer in her surroundings. Adding to her passivity is the nature of the werewolves, including her brother, Alejandro, that she encounters. The story makes a big, fucking deal about how aggressive the weres (black dogs) are, forcing Natividad and her twin brother, Miguel, to be constantly on edge and tiptoeing around everyone. On one hand, Natividad, a "Pure," can't be harmed by the weres, but on the other, she's constantly afraid to speak up or have any agency of her own. Sorry, but my preference is for heroines with a bit of sass, even if it sometimes tips them into TSTL territory.

Then there's Alejandro. Anyone who's read a few of my reviews know I can tolerate all manner of character flaws if they're softened with humor. Alejandro makes the steroid-poisoned heroes of paranormal romance--they of huge muscles and no wit--seem downright hilarious. He's angry; he's looking for a fight, he's a hairy slab of bleeeeh.

The inclusion of Spanish here and there in the story is nice, except either through poor copy editing, or other error, there are grammatical problems that even I, a speaker of slangy, border Spanglish, noticed.

In a moment of weakness, contemplated putting this in the "Maybe later" shelf, and then realized, it just wasn't happening. Moving on...
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
March 26, 2014
I quite liked this one. I had the author on my blog for a blog tour post a while ago, here, and I was sure I'd finish this in no time. But, life happened, I got a job, and this lingered tantalisingly on my Kobo, just waiting for me to finish it off and put together my thoughts.

So, I originally requested it because of the comparisons to Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which I think are actually fairly apt. It has an interesting take on werewolf mythology, in the same way that McKinley did something a bit different with her vampires, and a magic system and world building that work well together. There's even hints of a magic-related disaster where vampires run amok.

But, it's also got an intriguing cast of characters who, gasp, are not all white. Natividad and her brothers are great, and their relationship seems more important than the other relationships in the book. Natividad doesn't automatically fall for Tall, Dark and Sexy, and in fact there's a lot of issues around that which have to be worked out.

My only problem with Black Dog is that I did have trouble picking it back up once I put it down. It builds tension well, but it's hard to jump back in at that point when you've been busy. It then starts to feel quite slow. Still, very enjoyable and, importantly, something a bit different. I don't know about the YA label -- goodness knows I hardly ever agree with people about that -- but it's a good story.
Profile Image for Estara.
799 reviews128 followers
June 13, 2015
I've read a lot of paranormal romances featuring werewolves and some YA non-romancy books, too (for exampe the Other series of Ann Bishop) and I didn't think that something different could still be done there, but Rachel Neumeier has a great twist on the werewolf and vampire idea (although the book itself seems to be taking place after vampires are out of the picture).

It was awesome to have a non-preachy book about faith (Christian faith at that) which is intricately linked with the idea of where black dogs come from and how historically they have been dealt with (and that shout-out to St. Walburga, still one of the most popular female saints in Germany, and particularly in my region was just lovely).

Aside: As a pedantic German I do think the Beschwichtigend (i.e. the Calming) was supposed to be the Beschwichtigung or even more the Beruhigung (since beschwichtigen means only to calm down for a time, not to make a Black Dog have a totally different view of Pures for the rest of his life, as is the case in the book) - beschwichtigend being an adjective form, whereas the -ung suffix gets used for nouns.

With all due chorteling about the world-building, without investing into the siblings from Mexico you would have no story - them and the Dimilioc black dogs who get confronted by them. I love Natividad, I even love her oldest brother, which I did not expect and I hope we get more Miguel.

The Black Dog Stories book that Rachel released herself is an awesome expansion of several characters backgrounds, which I was glad to gobble up after this.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Julia.
2,513 reviews66 followers
April 7, 2017
I had plans today, plans that did not include getting hooked on the first page of BLACK DOG and fighting to find more reading time every moment until I was finished. Neumeier brilliantly reimagines magic and shapeshifting, black dogs and vampires, but slips these intricate, clever details in around a gripping cast of characters that I cared deeply about. The world building is so deftly spaced out, it's not until the end that I realized this was a world remade, that everything I expected about magic had subtly changed, and that I'd do anything to get a chance to visit again.

Everything is well balanced. The stakes are high, the interpersonal dynamics are riveting, and the glimpses of nascent romance are sweet and sexy. Though the magic of the final battle are a little bit vague, all preceding supernatural discussions offered just the mix of mystery and mechanics. Not so many details that I drowned, and not so much vagary that anything seems possible. Reminiscent of Robin McKinley's SUNSHINE, BLACK DOG has rewritten the world as I know it to more dangerous and compelling place.

Full review to follow.

Sexual content: None.

Reread #1 (4/12/14): in preparation for PURE MAGIC, I revisited book one in the series. I enjoyed the characters and world building as much as I recalled, though the magical battle held less appeal (and thus the middle dragged a bit, this second time through). I'm so happy to read more about this world, can't wait for book two!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 69 books975 followers
February 15, 2014
Aaaaahhhhh I loved this book so much! I always enjoy good werewolf stories - but this really was a step beyond, with characters I absolutely adored and a really original take on the werewolf mythos and a unique, compelling magical system. For once in a book with alternating POVs, I was just as invested in both POVs, and even the side-characters are vibrant and satisfying. The romance is both complicated (by grim context) and understated (a small subplot for one of the PoVs rather than the main plot for either of them), but oh, the chemistry between Natividad and her love interest is FABULOUS - I really want to see what happens next with it!

I hope SO DESPERATELY that there will be a Book 2 soon, because I really, REALLY need to find out what happens to all the characters! And for once, I really do mean ALL of them, not just the heroine or hero.
Profile Image for Coyora Dokusho.
1,432 reviews142 followers
November 26, 2014
It was really, really, really good. I'm really glad I read it even though it kept me awake a long freaking time... Yeah, I sleep now...

(later the same day, after work...)

Yeah, work sucked on 3 hours of sleep and... I'm not doing my homework due today, sorry, but no.

BUT! I REGRET NOTHING!!! Because this book was just that awesome. The character development was fantastic and the plot was exciting. The only bad thing... is the next book's not out yet. Gimme the next book!!!! Gimme!!!
Profile Image for Anya.
763 reviews168 followers
January 12, 2014
Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier is a fresh twist on the werewolf and witch urban fantasies in the young adult genre. Black Dog focuses on the lives of three siblings as they run from Mexico to the northern United States, escaping from the stray Black Dog pack that murdered their parents. I loved the premise of werewolf myths actually coming from these black dogs with shadow magic and the idea of main characters from Mexico! However, Black Dog never pulled me in and I just couldn’t manage to connect with either of the narrators. Even when people were being eviscerated, I just didn’t care, making Black Dog a very slow read given its length.
Note: I received an eARC of Black Dog through Netgalley for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.

On Starships and Dragonwings Button

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier eARC {2.5 Stars}
Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier
Published by Strange Chemistry on Feb. 4th, 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy, YA
Length: 448 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley

Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge--the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases--like for Natividad's father and older brother--Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad's mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister's Pure magic. Natividad's twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

I was so happy to see that Black Dog had POC characters narrating the story. This also added a fun twist with the potential to bring in more Mexican culture to the over saturated urban fantasy genre. Plus, the cover doesn’t look white-washed, woot!
I loved the spin on werewolves that Black Dog developed. Black dogs are people that can turn into hellhounds, basically, but the transformation comes from their shadow coming up and enveloping them. There is the same struggle with the human mind versus the black dog instincts, but with the added bonus of shadows and hellish influences. The Pure magic described in the synopsis is pretty much a spin on good witches, since they use pentagrams and other religious symbols to cast protective magic. I liked the dynamic between Pure magic and black dog shadows, plus the whole sibling thing worked all these concepts together well.
I took Spanish for a year or two when I was around five, so I definitely do not understand written Spanish. Black Dog did a fairly good job of incorporating Spanish words (since it’s narrated by Spanish-speakers), while still including enough English explanations so that I didn’t get lost.

I was unfortunately not able to connect with either Natividad or Alejandro (the two narrators) at any point during Black Dog. While it was interesting hearing about the magic that both of them have, and Alejandro certainly has struggles with his Black Dog, they both felt like very bland characters to me. Natividad isn’t a girl that I would likely connect with if I met her in real life based on my impressions of her in Black Dog, and that is a big problem for me.
Black Dog takes place in an alternative world from ours as far as I can tell. There is mention of vampires previously keeping the general populace unable to see magical critters, but the vampires have recently been defeated so the humans are starting to figure things out. That’s about all I know about this world, however, since that’s all that is mentioned. It felt very strange for there to be these obvious disconnects from our world, but not much to fill in the holes left behind.
Black Dog was never able to make me feel tension for the characters’ fates, even during the action scenes. There are a couple of fairly large fights with the bad guys and people do definitely die, but I was never really worried about the main characters. There just didn’t seem to be any real risk in Black Dog in that I didn’t believe the author would let anything bad happen to our characters.
There is a really creepy arranged marriage vibe hinted at in Black Dog. The Pure women are protected by certain Black Dogs and considered highly desirable because they can have children with Black Dogs. Therefore, when Natividad shows up at this new pack, she is informed she will have to choose someone in a few months and one of the strongest men basically lays claim to her…. What the hell???

Black Dog had a lot of potential but just ended up coming off stiff and dull. I was intrigued with the alternative world history that was hinted at, but we never got enough information to really understand what was going on in this world. I was excited to get to know some characters a little different from the typical young adult cast, but I was completely unable to connect to them for reasons I’m honestly still not able to pin down. When I finally looked at the page count of Black Dog in order to write this review, I felt a little bit better about how long it had taken me to read it, since it just felt like it kept going on. If the premise sounds really awesome to you, you might give it a try, but be prepared for a bit of a slow read.
Profile Image for Tammy.
837 reviews139 followers
February 21, 2014
The nitty-gritty: A fascinating take on the werewolf tale, wrapped up in an emotional story about complex family relationships, with some much-needed character diversity and lots of cool magic!

Natividad thought the girl couldn’t be more than thirteen or fourteen years old. Her father’s elegant features were, in her, a fragile delicacy. She didn’t look like a girl who could survive disasters. She looked stunned and blank, like she had not yet figured out whether she ought to feel grief or rage or despair or terror. All those emotions would crash in on her at once, Natividad knew. Soon. Probably as soon as Harrison locked her in the cage downstairs to wait, alone, for her corrupted shadow to rise.

Whatever you do, don’t call black dogs “werewolves,” because they’re not. But it’s hard not to think of these creatures this way, because black dogs and werewolves are similar: they look human until they shift into their wolf form, and they are driven to kill. Neumeier has taken this idea and created something unique. Her black dogs not only shift into wolf form in a new way, but they live in complex packs that seem to closely resemble those of dogs and wolves. Neumeier has gorgeous writing skills and uses them to her advantage, creating a story that flows beautifully and is equal parts violent action and focused family drama.

When the story opens, fifteen-year-old Natividad and her two brothers, Miguel and Alejandro, are on the run. They have left their beloved Mexico after their parents were brutally murdered, and are on their way to Vermont to look for the Dimilioc tribe of black dogs, where they hope to be granted refuge from the enemy who killed their parents. But finding the Dimilioc black dogs could be more dangerous than they realize, because pack leader Grayson Lanning is wary of any black dog who isn’t already part of his pack.

With the Dimilioc’s acceptance comes great responsibility, as Natividad and her brothers are about to find out. Because their nemesis, a cruel and dangerous black dog named Vonhausel, is about to make his presence known in the worst way possible. As Grayson’s black dogs and the newcomers slowly start to trust one another, they must join together to destroy Vonhausel once and for all.

I think my favorite part of Black Dog was the incredibly detailed world-building. I loved the idea of the black dogs, who are born that way (not changed by a bite). When a black dog changes to wolf form, it’s their shadow that creates the change. It takes over the human body, much like a storm cloud passing over the sun. A black dog can control his shadow and keep it back if he doesn’t want to change, but this skill requires great strength. Just like the classic werewolf, a black dog is constantly at war with his alter ego.

When I said the family relationships are complex, I wasn’t kidding. Alejandro is a black dog, but his brother Miguel is human and Natividad is something else entirely, a “Pure.” Pures are always female and have magical abilities that can calm a black dog and keep his shadow from rising. Pures are highly valued in the black dog world for this ability, but unfortunately, they are also desired for breeding purposes. This was the one part of the world-building I wasn’t crazy about. My feminist side couldn’t help but protest the fact that all of these tough and dangerous black dogs were salivating over Natividad, even the gray-haired leader, Grayson. Some of Natividad’s interactions with him had me raising my eyebrows, and at one point I was worried Neumeier was about to have them hook up romantically (and yuck!). But when I stepped back and simply observed the reactions of the black dogs, it made sense in a way. The author has set up a realistic “pack” that behaves like domestic dogs do. Even as I was wincing as the males started literally sniffing around Natividad, I tried my best to distance myself and just go with it.

Natividad has a potential romantic love interest (and yes, he wants her just as much as the other males!), but the author wisely puts the romance on the back burner. One of the strongest black dogs is a man named Ezekiel who practically stamps his name on Natividad’s forehead when he meets her. But as the story progressed I grew to really like him, and he never went beyond a stolen kiss or two with her, which I thought was appropriate, especially because of her age.

Neumeier did a great job of showing just how hard the life of black dogs and Pures are. Pack life is always uncertain at best, and downright deadly when someone gets out of control. Everyone must obey and look up to Grayson, which was hard to read about at times. The Dimiliocs in particular have hard and violent lives, because Vonhausel wants to kill them all. A thrilling climactic scene reveals some interesting things about evil Vonhausel, but before things are resolved, get ready for lots of bloodshed.

What didn’t work for me were the scenes between all the action, when the characters were sitting around talking about what they were going to do next. There seemed to be way too many of these talky scenes, at least for me. They served the purpose of conveying information about the world of the black dogs and their customs, but after a while I felt they were just repeating themselves.

But other than that, I found Black Dog to be a fascinating and utterly original story. Amidst the violence of pack life, Neumeier shows us beauty in the smallest details: Natividad’s protective magic, the times when the characters comfort each other, and the joy Natividad and her brothers feel when they see snow for the first time. These moments balance out the blood and grief, and make this a story of hope.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy.
Profile Image for Annie Lima.
Author 28 books160 followers
February 16, 2021
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time – not just because it's a good story, but because it's a good story told so skillfully. Every main character is deep, distinct, and so thoroughly developed that I feel as though I know them personally. Even the minor characters have depth and are all different and interesting. The plot is exciting, and I had a hard time putting the book down, but my favorite aspect of it was the character interactions. Their relationships with each other, both good and bad, made the story rich and fascinating. The author's way with words and descriptions brought out many beautiful moments and left me quite impressed at her writing style. I can't wait to start the next book now!
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