Parallel universes accessed through portals hidden in plain sight. Human/Elfin like creatures with combat skills straight out of Mortal Combat. Dreams that turn into nightmares set in some of the prettiest places. This and so much more is what you find when you delve into the pages of LL McKinney’s debut Young Adult novel, A Blade So Black.
I admit I lean more toward sci-fi than fantasy, however, when it’s done right, it’s usually hard to put the book down, and that’s what happened when I began reading what some have described as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Wonderland”. A Blade So Black is a fantasy-laden tale filled with the out of this world adventures encountered when a modern-day, teenaged Black girl from Atlanta is tasked with protecting the world from “nightmares” you’d never want to see while sleeping, let alone while awake. But, what is even more profound about the tale is the story within the story. A Blade so Black is the tale of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, surviving in a world where the odds are very much against her, yet she is able to not only overcome her many challenges but be heroic in the process.
The realness that McKinney displays by making the story fantastic but simultaneously realistic is not one that writers always do well. Through a fantasy story, however, McKinney has painted a picture of the very real lives Black girls live today while juggling a side gig of killing monsters in a dream world and making it home by curfew–alive!
In the story, we get to know the main character, Alice, intimately. We learn about her fears, her hurts, her losses, and her dreams for the future–all while navigating that tricky period between being a teenager and an adult. Through Alice’s story, McKinney skillfully laces real-life obstacles with ones we could only imagine–while keeping it down to earth by reminding us that when your mother tells you to take the meat out of the freezer to defrost, you really need to do that.
This isn’t simply a retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; McKinney’s “Alice” is Alice 2.0. So, if you enjoy a good page turner that you can envision every step of the way, this is the adventure you’ve been waiting for!
Tiara Janté is a writer & author from northeastern Pennsylvania. She is both a Staff Writer & Social Media Manager at BlackSci-Fi.com, as well as Co-Editor of Black Girl Magic Lit Mag. A self-confessed social media junkie, when she isn’t online or working on her many projects, she enjoys reading a good thriller, observing hip-hop beefs on Twitter, taking long naps and spending time with her hubby and children. Connect with her via her Website as well as her Twitter, Facebook & Instagram pages.