Nichole “Nic” Blake and her father, Calvin, have moved 10 times in as many years. In Jackson, Mississippi, Nic has finally managed to make a friend, JP, by bonding over their shared love of the bestselling Stevie James fantasy book series, but there’s one thing Nic must hide from her friend. She and her father are Remarkables, born with a Gift that’s “more powerful than magic,” and this is the year that Nic’s father has promised to teach her how to use it, so long as she keeps it a secret from Unremarkables like JP. But when Nic’s 12th birthday arrives, Calvin instead gives her a hellhound puppy and the same old promise: “Next year.”
Nic’s world turns upside down at a Stevie James book signing when the series’ author, TJ Retro, reveals to her that the books are actually based on his childhood, with two characters inspired by Nic’s parents. The revelation sets off a chain of events that leads to Calvin making a number of his own confessions, including that he’s actually been on the run for the past decade. Nic, JP and a newly revealed relative are thrown into a quest for an immensely powerful weapon called the Msaidizi that offers the only way to clear Calvin’s name.
Award-winning, bestselling YA author Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give) makes her middle grade debut with Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy, the magnificent, hilarious and captivating start to a planned series. Nic’s opinionated running commentary makes her instantly appealing, and Thomas’ skill for conversational prose and dialogue shines. Rapid shifts in tone keep readers on their toes and turning pages as quickly as possible. For instance, Nic and her friends meet a spirit who shares that one of the best parts of being a ghost is going anywhere you want, including Beyoncé’s headlining set at Coachella, only to scramble to escape from skeletal hands that burst through the floor moments later.
What makes this novel truly special is Thomas’ world building. She seamlessly intertwines fantastical Remarkable history with real-life Black history, as when Calvin explains that “nothing about any Black people started with slavery” and describes how “the Gift was first given to our ancestors . . . in Africa.” Fans of mythology will be delighted to learn that the Msaidizi has been used by folklore legends John Henry, High John and Annie Christmas. Just as captivating is the concept of Glow, auras of various colors visible only to Remarkables that signal the identities of vampires, giants, fairies, merfolk and Manifestors like Nic.
It can be challenging to satiate the appetites of readers who devour beloved middle grade fantasy series like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, Dhonielle Clayton’s The Marvellers and B.B. Alston’s Amari and the Night Brothers. Those readers will inhale Nic Blake and the Remarkables—and then begin counting down the days to its sequel.