It’s six months after Amari’s brother Quinton disappears, and Amari seems to be the only one that hasn’t given up on him. When a mysterious courier delivers a cryptic message and a magical Wakeful Dream from a presumed dead Quinton inviting her to join the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, Amari doesn’t hesitate to sign up for summer camp training. Determined to find out what happened to Quinton, it looks like becoming a junior agent in the Department of Supernatural Investigations is her only way to get the information she needs. The problem is junior agent is the most coveted position, and her competition is from legacy families, kids from well off families, brought up in the ambience of the Bureau, trained their whole lives to succeed there. What chance has Amari, a poor Black kid from the Projects, against these privileged legacy kids? She doesn’t even own a pair of Sky Sprints. Added to the ire she arouses in some parts of the bureau is that fact that her innate magical ability has been determined to be that of a magician – extremely powerful but illegal, hated and feared by the bureau, particularly given that a series of attacks on supernatural beings is being carried out by the infamous night brothers, the most powerful and evil magicians the world has seen.
But Amari has met prejudice before and is determined not to let it define her. In fact, as she investigates what the bureau knows about her brother’s disappearance, in-between training for junior agent try-outs, Amari can’t help wondering if the case Quinton was working on is connected to captive magician Moreau and the attacks on the Supernatural world. Could there possibly be a spy within the bureau? And will Amari survive there long enough to find out?
This is a hugely imaginative book that is a lot of fun to read. I’ve seen it described as a cross between Percy Jackson and Men in Black, and I certainly understand the comparison. When Amari first enters the bureau, she walks into a hall full of many different magical creatures, a scene reminiscent of Will Smith’s first day as Agent Jay. The variety of interesting magical creatures and imaginative artefacts continues throughout the book. I found the plot resolution satisfying too, although to avoid giving spoilers, I won’t say why. I loved how Amari was given fantastic magical ability, but in a nice twist on the trope, it was illegal, making life even more difficult for her. The prejudice against magicians was also a clever way to depict real life prejudices, which Amari is no stranger to. I liked how the bureau, although the “good guys” were fallible humans, some motivated by greed, fear, envy or pride. I can’t say I took to those running the bureau, particularly the way they wanted to label you (via your potential) the day you arrived, but it felt realistic.
Amari is a strong character. I love how she never gives up on Quinton but continues to work towards discovering what happened, and finding him if she can. I love her bravery and intelligence, and her friendship with roommate Elsie. The story is written is first person present tense, which distanced me from Amari a little but didn’t prevent me from hugely enjoying the story.
TOTP says a hugely enjoyable 9 out of 10 diamonds.