Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.
The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.
Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.
Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.
To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.
K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. She started her career penning beauty articles for a hairstyling website and now powers herself with chocolate and green tea while she writes novels and blogs about writing.
When she’s not creating YA stories full of hidden secrets, nightmares, and powerful magic, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, spend time with family, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need.
Visit her website, www.kmallan.com, to discover the mysteries of the universe. Or at the very least, some good writing tips.
Blackbirch: The Beginning is the kind of book that will make you stay up late reading it, and then invade your dreams. Honestly, I'm quite glad I've finished it so I don't have any more nightmares about shadows and fire.
At its heart, Blackbirch: The Beginning a mystery that pulled me through from page to page. Why doesn't Josh remember his past? Who is Kallie? And how is the scarred man involved? There is enough resolution at the end of this book to be satisfying but also leave you wanting book two.
There's a a lot to be said also for the talent in rendering the town and the namesake trees that surround it in such detail. You would think there were only so many ways to describe a tree, but K.M. Allan manages to describe them in fresh and evocative ways every time. You'll be smelling the wintergreen scent for days after.
A recommended read for young adults and fans of spooky urban fantasy.
Dark secrets, dangerous woods, murder, magick and mayhem, everything you need for an engaging read. This is a wonderful debut from a very talented writer. Blackbirch: The Beginning has the kind of smart, sharp prose that makes it stand head and shoulders above the usual YA read. I highly recommend it. Author K.M. Allan has created a credible magickal world tied to our own, and built the very odd and spooky town of Blackbirch. I was so taken by the setting and its part as a key character in the story that I had to google blackbirch trees. It was so easy to imagine the cast and story playing out in the eerie forest as Allan's story had me racing along the pages to find out what happens next. There is no wasted space on these pages, the action, dialogue and back stories are fabulous. The young characters Josh, Sarah, Eve, Kallie, along with Max weave the plot and develop well across the pages as they hint that there is so much more to them than they seem. I particularly liked the magickal history and premise that sits behind this world, it's clever and a great framework for the plot. Allan's creation of the Blackbirch bookstore reflects her skill as a writer, this is the perfect reflection of the larger world she's created; on the surface, modern kitch and cheap souvenirs downstairs, but upstairs, the deeper story, real magickal tomes and powerful devices that open the door to... Well, no spoilers here. I'm so glad I was able to read an ARC of this story. Put it on your TBR list. Bring on book 2 - and hurry!
Josh Taylor has lost his beloved parents and the life he had in the city. Fostered out to his Mum’s best friend, he must learn to adjust to life in the quaint little tourist town of Blackbirch, whose twee façade hides a sinister reality.
Struggling to recover both emotionally and physically, seventeen year old Josh has to deal with both his overwhelming grief and his newly awakened supernatural powers. Trying to make sense of his new life, he turns to his adult mentors and high school friends.
But in a town as mysterious as Blackbirch, who can he really trust?
I found myself drawn into the intriguing world of Blackbirch, where everyday reality and the supernatural coexist. Josh’s quest to make sense of his strange dreams and unwanted new powers took many unexpected turns and kept me guessing.
The story ends with a tantalizing cliffhanger, and I can’t wait for the arrival of the second book in this series.
If you like magic(k), tangled pasts, family secrets, haunted woods and an eerie town - this book is for you! K.M. Allan has done a superb job in crafting this foreboding world, filled with mystery, spells and a cast of likeable characters.
While Josh attempts to combat a past that has taken everything away from him, he must also learn how to decode his dreams, figure out who to trust and find out how to remember what really happened.
Fast-paced and evocative- 'Blackbirch: The Beginning' will hold your attention to the end and have you hoping that the next book won't be too far away.
I devoured this book! The intrigue grabs you from page one, and this air of mystery and magic carries throughout the whole story. I was captivated by the mystery surrounding Josh, and what had happened to his parents. The atmosphere throughout is like electricity, every page is exciting and tense. The characters are believable, and I especially loved Max - I laughed out loud with him, which added another layer of enjoyment to this read. So enjoyable throughout and then a cliffhanger ending that made my jaw drop - bring on book 2!
While most residents of the sleepy town of Blackbirch view its rich history of witchcraft as nothing more than a tourist attraction, others take the folklore more seriously.
When Josh loses both his parents in a tragic car accident, he has to move back to the town he grew up in, to stay with family friends. They seem to have fond memories of him but he barely recalls anything about them. All he wants to do is sleep and mope, alone in his room. But his sleep is accompanied by wildly vivid dreams - the beautiful girl with the cryptic messages and the monster hiding amongst the blackbirches feel all too real.
Blackbirch is an intriguing read full of mystery, secrets and twists and turns you'll never see coming. Being the first in a series, there are promises of much more to come as the characters learn more about their abilities and the people in their lives who mean most to them (as well as figuring out who to trust and who not to trust!)
Being quite plot-based and action-driven, I found I didn't feel close to the characters as much as I would like. I'm sure though, that with each subsequent book, I will feel more connected to Josh, Sarah, Max and Eve.
Beautifully written, this debut novel proves that KM Allan has a bright future ahead of her - can't wait for the next book!
Quick disclaimer: K. M. Allan is a friend from the #6amAusWriters group on Twitter, and I received an ARC for free. I promise that neither of those facts have affected my review, though.
Witchcraft is my favourite form of magic, and the magick in Blackbirch definitely falls under that heading. From the start, Allan creates an almost other-worldly town in Blackbirch. It almost felt like the town wasn’t quite in the 21st century.
To be honest, my favourite character was Eve, the girl who’s something of an outcast because of her fascination with witchcraft and the town’s history. There are some hints at the end of the book as to where her character arc is likely to lead and I’m really looking forward to seeing that play out (without spoiling too much, I think it’s going to get messy).
None of that is to say the other characters weren’t interesting. It took me a little while to warm to Josh, mostly because he spends a large chunk of the novel being mopey and a bit of a stick in the mud. But there are reasons why he was doing that, which come out later. Once he was a bit more involved in the action, I was able to get more invested in him.
I am definitely jealous of Allan’s ability to write a climax – there’s a fantastic buildup to a confrontation in the woods that I really enjoyed. And while most of the major plotlines are wrapped up, there are still plenty of opportunities for things to unfold in the coming books. I for one am really looking forward to it!
This is slightly out of my usual genre preferences. And I've read it in 3 days. I admit I'm not even sure what genre it is. Paranormal/thriller with fantasy elements, maybe? So, take the 5-star rating with a grain of salt because it's mostly based on how it dragged me inside but I can't comment on genre specifics. Either way, I was easily gripped by the story. The dream sequences were quite livid and nailed their purpose, and the ending raises just the right questions to make me interested in how it may play out next - to the point I'll likely return to the story sooner or later.
Note: I follow the author's blog for quite a while because of her writing tips and we exchanged a free copy of our books - with no obligations.
This is a really cool debut from K.M. Allan. Lots of mystery, intrigue and creativity with the plot, and I'm very eager to read the sequel now after that ending! One of my favourite things about this novel was the descriptive language. I could picture places like the bookstore and the black birch forest so clearly in my mind. I really wish the bookstore was real so I could go and visit it!
Thanks so much, K.M., for providing me with an ARC. And a huge congratulations on the publication of your book!
A gripping ride through Josh's living nightmare. K.M Allen weaves you into the story at a visceral level - creating a sense of place and a feeling of dread, that follows you right through to the closing pages. I wanted to know more, as each layer of magick, revealed clues to the ultimate truth about Josh, his parents, and other main characters. Looking forward to book 2 and the next scary adventure!
I love the setting K.M. Allan has created in this story: a small town enveloped in haunting forest and hiding magical secrets. The sense of place was clearly and vividly established, transporting the reader there with strong images. I don't tend to read a lot of fantasy and books about magic, but I appreciated the intricate thought that has gone into creating this magic system and enjoyed the imagery around this too. The story was fast paced with great tension, twists and reveals - a page-turner of a dark magical adventure. I just have one question: Where we can we buy the Blackbirch merch??
The first instalment of this new series didn’t disappoint. As we move through the story, a sinister foreshadowing unravels into a complex plot line which takes Josh back to his roots. The town of Blackbirch itself becomes a character in its own right, steeped in rich magical history that is both incredibly realistic and has a hometown vibe. I look forward to the next title.
I loved the concept of this book, but I struggled to get into it. I found it difficult to connect to the characters and the writing style, but I expect that was mostly personal preference. Because Josh starts the book with no memory of his friends or his life in Blackbirch, he spends a lot of the book baffled and confused by his own reactions and thoughts which made it hard for me to like him as a protagonist.
The description and the magick (with a k) lore in the book were definitely the strong points. It's a solid YA adventure, with a dose of teenage angst and some seriously creepy set pieces. I'm still tempted to get book 2 in the series (trilogy?) to see how the characters develop now that they understand more about themselves, the town, and what's going on.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wanted to savor the story, so I tried to read just one chapter a day, but alas, the story became too much to put away and I finished it early. I don't want to give anything away. This was a terrific story. The characters were terrific, the back story was also very good. I can't wait for the paid version to come out. I'll buy it and read this again. Thanks, K.M. Allan. This was one great story that entertained me for over a week. All the best with your book sales. This should do very well, once you publish it.
I follow this author’s blog and I love the confidence she conveys on her website. Her debut novel doesn’t have quite the same poise but you can see where she was trying to go and hopefully she will get there as the series continues.
I was given an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review of this book. I read the ARC. It was okay. I wrote a review saying that. I offered the author the option of not posting it. She didn’t accept, which I thought was very gracious, but asked me to hold off on posting it until after the official release of the book. And then I watched as she posted tweet after tweet about all the changes she was making in the lead up to the release date. If it was changing that much, I didn’t think it was fair to post the review I’d written. So when the book came out, I bought a copy and read it again. I’m glad I did. It’s not an entirely different book and it’s not perfect, but it was enough of an improvement to make me want to rewrite my original unposted review.
Josh Taylor has been sent to live in Blackbirch with his mother’s best friend, Grace, and Grace’s daughter, Sarah, after the death of his own parents in a car accident. He wasn’t in the car at the time of the accident – at least, that’s what he’s been told – but he doesn’t really remember because he’s suffering from some kind of psychologically-induced partial amnesia. He knows who he is but a lot of other things are very hazy.
Blackbirch is a regional town that relies on tourists and what brings the tourists in is its reputation as a location for witchcraft and magick (note the “k” on the end – magic is what magicians do but magick is real and powerful). Grace runs a store selling candles and herbs and spellbooks and other magick ingredients. Sarah helps out after school but she isn’t a believer. Eve, Sarah’s former friend, works there as well and she believes big time. Josh has never given much thought to any of it.
But weird things are happening. A girl named Kallie is coming to Josh in his dreams, warning of a dark presence and possible danger. Just touching a sacred crystal or a spellbook for a moment sends a power coursing through his body that he can’t control and doesn’t know how to explain. Phantom pains in his shoulder plague him. And something is drawing him to a house deep in the woods that everybody else says doesn’t exist.
Josh needs answers – the truth about his parents’ car accident, about who he can trust, about what exactly is going on – but how far will he have to go to get them? And who will get hurt in the process?
The premise is captivating and the world building that has gone into the town of Blackbirch is terrific. The setting is enticing, somewhere we’d probably all be intrigued by. There’s something a little Blair Witch about the place but without the serial killer vibe, a little Salem but without the finger pointing, hysteria and witchcraft trials.
The characters are a little underdeveloped, I think because they’re all competing for limited space. Because of this underdevelopment, Josh doesn’t really seem interested in the missing parts of his identity. Sarah trails him around like a puppy dog, bounding at his heels in an effort to cheer him up, like he’s having a bad day instead of a bad year. Max, Sarah’s next door neighbour who is obviously in love with her, is pretty much superfluous. He misses out on all the important moments of the story and could easily be removed. Kallie… well, since she only comes to Josh in his dreams, we’re not even sure if she’s a real person.
Eve is the most successful character – and the best interactions are between Josh and Eve – but her motivations aren’t properly explored. She hovers between understandably guarded and inexplicably power hungry. Arden Flynn, the high school guidance counsellor, is the most well-rounded and best written character but he’s an adult and we’re really here for the teenagers. It is a young adult book, after all.
The plot is a little haphazard, the writing is a bit melodramatic, the structure could be tightened and there are a few handfuls of typos (although not too many to forgive) but it gets there in the end. There’s an in-your-face cliffhanger that means you have to buy the next book to get any sort of closure but if you like urban fantasy, witches and magick, then you probably won’t mind (and it’s reported to be coming out in 2020 so you won’t have to wait too long).
In a few words: a promising start from which to continue.
This is a debut novel by a young writer I have been following for some time on social media. Having witnessed her struggles to finish the book, her epic ordeal editing it and her unpleasant brush with a small press publisher, I was invested enough to purchase a copy when it was finally released.
Technically a YA novel, it was still sophisticated and intriguing enough for this 52-year-old reader to thoroughly enjoy and relate to. Telling the tale of 17-year-old Josh’s return to his childhood hometown after the tragic death of both his parents in a car crash. But much more than just his family have been taken from Josh, most of his memories appear to be gone as well. Understandable amnesia caused by shock is the diagnosis of the doctors, but, as the tale unfolds and strange things begin to happen to Josh, the reader starts to realise there is something a lot more sinister going on.
The author writes well and is obviously comfortable creating believable and relatable teenage characters who are neither annoying nor sappy. I particularly liked the way she allows us glimpses into their internal thoughts and feelings which adds to the depth of the characters, although I have yet to make a connection with the character of Max. Very much a supporting act, I’m not sure what purpose he serves other than to eat any food he can lay his hands on and ferry the main characters around in his car. But this is only book one of the series so maybe the author had plans for Max to grow and develop into something more significant than the cypher he currently is.
Leaving aside the human cast, it is the town of Blackbirch itself that fascinated me the most. A place surrounded by a creepy wood of ancient black birch trees that are steadily encroaching on the township, it is impossible not to pick up on the sense of creeping unease. It is a town rich with a history of magic and witchcraft and Josh and his friends soon find themselves embroiled in old secrets and ancient powers that linger just beyond everyday life.
A short, quick read, Blackbirch is the perfect book for those looking for a few hours of escape and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I loved all the ingredients that went into this book; a troubled character, Josh Taylor, who is struggling after the death of his parents and his newly awakened supernatural powers, a mysterious town called Blackbirch and a sinster looking forest which hems the town. The standout was the way K.M. Allan brought her book's setting to life. I was fascinated by this circular border of black birch trees lining the town's boundaries. I loved the different ways K.M. Allan described these unusual dark trees. You can tell this book has book has been well crafted. I also adored the foreboding presence of the black birch forest which adds to the wonderful spooky feel. Josh was a good character and I did feel sorry for him given his troubled state, his powerful vivid dreams at night which feature a girl called Kallie who seems to be warning him about something and his fascination with a house in the woods which everyone says doesn't exist. There are other young characters who help Josh in his quest to find out about the holes in his memory and his new found powers. I am keen to know more about Kallie, his friend Eve and the secrets of Blackbirch. There was so much happening in the story as I got to the end and I knew K.M. Allan had more tricks up her sleeve - then came the fabulous cliffhanger. Nicely done 🍸 I did love K.M. Allan's writer calling card - Blackbirch bookstore. Love love loved this unique bookstore ❤️
This is a terrifically scary fantasy. A mysterious dark YA thriller and I was drawn in from the first page. Poor Josh. A car accident killed his family and his memory is lost. His mother’s best friend has taken Josh in, which brings Josh back to his childhood town of Blackbirch.
Blackbirch is named after the blackbirch trees that surround the small town. It’s also a small town with a witch history making it quite the tourist attraction. But it’s not just tourists who believe in magic. Many of the townsfolk do as well. Josh is not a fan. He can’t remember the town or his old school friends but they remember him and want him to be the Josh of old. But there is something about this town Josh was made to forget. Finding out what he can’t remember will hurt more than just Josh. Along with his old school friends, there is a dream girl who is trapped, a witch girl who desires more magic, and a shadowy figure hunting Josh. If he doesn’t find out what he can’t remember more than just his past will be lost.
This is a fantastic book one. K.M. Allan paints a gloriously spooky world of magic and fear. The town of Blackbirch is a character in its own right. The young men and women of this witchy place are layered and well defined. The pacing is perfect for the tale. K.M. Allan does a great job of creating a creepy vibe that flows from every page. A great read for Halloween. I’m absolutely looking forward to book two.
From the very first page, this novel established a genuinely creepy and mysterious vibe that never let up, ramping to a climax that was action-packed and satisfying, and at the same time left me wanting more of these characters. Fortunately, there are several books to come in the Blackbirch series.
I think the first thing that captured me was the magic system, which is fascinating and diverse, with deep roots in the past and the place, and also in Josh's own personal history.
The second factor I really loved was the mystery. Or rather, mysteries, because there are quite a few: Why can't Josh remember his past? What has he forgotten? Who is Kallie and what are her motives? What's really going on in the woods? Who is the scarred man? These and other questions kept me reading. Some answers are given by the end of the story, others are only hinted at in this opening novel.
Finally, the town of Blackbirch itself, with its woods and its trees (and yes, I googled black birches and wintergreen oil and disappeared down that rabbit hole for a while) is almost another character in the novel. The black birches are everywhere, casting their ominous influence over every page.
So why four stars instead of five? Honestly, it's mostly just personal preference. I would have liked the writing to be a little smoother. It's not bad, just not my favourite style. I also found Josh hard to connect to at first, although as he's lost his memory, this is understandable. But he's a moody teenager, and this grumpy older woman has less patience for that than she used to. Finally, the character of Josh's friend Sarah seems a bit bland. But these are minor quibbles, nothing that spoiled my enjoyment or made me want to stop reading. And I loved the climax.
Blackbirch: The Beginning (clever title, by the way, and you won't see how clever until you read the book for yourself) is a great story, a really exciting debut from K.M. Allan. And I have a strong feeling that now the everything has been set up so well, Book Two will be even better.
(Thank you to K.M Allan for sending an ARC to me in exchange for an honest review)
I really enjoyed this first book in the Blackbirch series. I loved the way the intrigue and mystery kicked off on page one, which main character Josh waking in class from a disturbing and vivid dream. It takes a while to piece together why Josh has returned to Blackbirch, a small town he lived in as a child, and what has happened to his parents and indeed, what is happening to him, but it was well worth the wait. Blackbirch is a strange little town with a history of witchcraft. As the first book unravels, we discover that Josh's dreams are realer than he thought and that witchcraft has touched his life before. The ending was fantastic, leaving us desperate for more. The author also did a great job of crafting the young characters, making them flawed yet likable and making the reader want to know what happens to them next. A great book I'd recommend to young adults and adults who enjoy dark mystery and fantasy stories with enigmatic characters. Really looking forward to book two!
Blackbirch: a touristy town full of dark secrets and magickal history.
Josh: a young man orphaned by tragedy, struggling with memory loss, and troubled by strange dreams that are the start of something unimaginable.
From the secrets of the eerie forest, and the mystery behind what really happened to Josh and his parents, to the supernatural undertones pulsing through the everyday setting, you'll enjoy peeling back the layers of the town of Blackbirch, character by character, one chilling reality after another. A quick, fun, spooky read for a day at the beach or an afternoon curled up beneath a blanket with a cup of tea.
K.M. Allan’s debut novel is such a wonderful mystery. She was able to combine fantasy along with characters the reader could relate to. I swear I grew up with one of them.
Every chapter was important. It laid out like a puzzle piece where slowly the picture was revealed. K.M. was able to create fun and fascinating characters as well as a fast pace story. As a writer that is hard to do but K.M. pulled it off with ease.
If you're looking for a page turner check out Blackbirch: The Beginning. It is one fun read.
This book has been on my list to read for a while. I actually started it a few years ago, but then I suffered a loss and everything I had been reading, watching, and doing around that time became connected to that loss and I hadn't been able to finish.
I am finally able to go back to all the things I had started. This is the debut novel of author KM Allan and while YA isn't the genre I mostly go to, there are a few YAs that I enjoy.
I really enjoyed Josh's character and I loved the lack of memory he had and how that affected those around him as well as himself.
The place of Blackbirch was given this creepy eerie-ness due to all the trees and some tragedy that had happened.
I think Eve's character was my favourite and I felt she was the most well-developed. I feel bad but Sarah actually annoyed me.
Overall, an interesting read, good characters and a cliff-hanger that makes you want to grab the second book.
This is intriguing and intelligent YA fiction with the essential ingredients of goodies and baddies, magic(k), dreams, mysterious pasts and mysterious people. The main character Josh is very real and his reactions to the weird situations he finds himself in is utterly believable. Other characters are well realised and the story is well paced.
The book is clearly awaiting its sequel(s) but it has an emphatic climax and a wonderful teaser for the next book.
Fun and engrossing read with a blistering pace, Blackbirch: The Beginning is filled with many twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end! The MC is only as good as his supporting cast, a pair of young ladies that make up the yin and yang of his world, while he’s likeable enough, it’s those two who manage to keep him in and out of trouble! While this story gets fully resolved within this book, watch out for that last line! It’s a doozy!
A great start from this first time novelist. I follow K.M.Allen's blog and on Instagram and she produces wonderful words and images. The premise of the book is really spooky and I'm keen to get to know Josh a little more as the series progresses.