Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston. Balzer + Bray, 2022. 9780062975195

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book?  Amari fans rejoice! The young Black magician returns for her sophomore outing and this adventure lives up to the thrills and mystery of the first in the series, Amari and the Night Brothers.  Even though her beloved brother Quinton still lingers in his dream-like cursed state, Amari is looking forward to her first summer as a junior agent for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, especially because this year her friend Jayden (from the ‘Wood) will be joining her and her BFF Elsie Rodriguez (weredragon and gifted inventor) in the program. But before they even arrive, the magic world is thrown into chaos when a time freeze hits everyone in the Atlanta area…except for the magicians.  Amari goes from hero to zero as she’s targeted by an evil deputy prime minister; she’s labeled an undesirable and banned from studying magic with her mentor. She, Elsie, and their allies decide that the only way to put things to rights is to investigate the time freeze and catch the perpetrator. As rumors of war between the magicians and the Bureau circulate, Amari meets the League of Magicians and accepts their challenge to fight a duel with her former partner (now enemy) Dylan Van Helsing to see if fair or foul magick will govern their order. As in the first book, this mash-up of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson has plenty of memorable characters and exciting battle scenes, punctuated by jokey set-ups (let’s just say the Bureau elevators have a lot of personality). Although the first book was divided between the ‘Wood (Amari’s Black neighborhood) and the Bureau, this one is almost completely set in the supernatural Bureau, which allows for more world-building. The best part of this series for me is the strong, first-person narration, which makes Amari’s problems and decisions relatable, whether she’s trying to figure out who to trust, where to sit at lunch, or how to escape from the Living Library.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Many elements have very strong corollaries in the world of Harry Potter. Amari’s medium friend Julia Farsight gives off strong Luna Lovegood vibes while Director Harlowe of the Department of Half Truths and Full Cover-Ups recalls Dolores Umbridge, who heads the Improper Use of Magic Office.  The challenge in this adventure really echoed HP and the Goblet of Fire; Amari fans probably won’t mind the resemblance, but I sometimes found it distracting.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Anyone who loved the first book will be very satisfied with this next installment. This is an engrossing, fast-paced story that manages to dazzle but also to convey real emotional connection between its characters. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Fiction, fantasy if you genre-fy

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If you read the first one and are a fan, yes!

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: August 29, 2022

This entry was posted in *Book Review, B.B. Alston, Fantasy, Magic, Middle grade novel, Series and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.