Review of Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?
Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a weredragon as a roommate.
Amari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids—who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives and are able to easily answer questions like which two Great Beasts reside in the Atlantic Ocean and how old is Merlin? Just getting around the Bureau is a lesson alone for Amari with signs like ‘Department of Hidden Places this way, or is it?’ If that all wasn’t enough, every Bureau trainee has a talent enhanced to supernatural levels to help them do their jobs – but Amari is given an illegal ability. As if she needed something else to make her stand out.
With an evil magican threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

Amari and the Night Brothers is nothing short of one of the most wonderfully magical books I have read this year, huge thanks to Egmont Books and The Write Reads tours for having Biba and I along for the ride!

To start the book had a wonderful wizard of oz style feel, Amari is dealing with the double whammy of her missing brother and dealing with the awful school bullies who push her to the edge with their taunts about her heritage and how poor she is. It feels bleak for Amari, but with one wonderful twist she finds herself in a brand new environment. An environment which still has the same prejudices, but where even the most mundane of skills or talents can be transformed into something super human. I loved how quickly the story flipped and completely transformed the narrative.

The bureau itself is wonderfully realised, so many facets and great little areas, I was a particular fan of the diverse range of talking elevators which were either hilarious, helpful or a hindrance depending on the mood they were in at the time. I loved how all the spaces weaved together from training to workspace to living space but yet managed to keep their own distinct bubble. The slow reveal of just how vast it is was fantastic, I never felt overloaded and just added to the overall wonder of it all.

Character wise, they are all fantastic, apart from maybe the mean girls, Amari’s room mate Elsie is a particular treat with her amazing creations and sage advice. Obviously the star is Amari herself, she is so focused on finding out what happened to her brother and is utterly fearless, she is so strong but she never gives herself the credit for it. Whilst the career kids have had years to learn and be aware of the supernatural world and have the upper hand, Amari’s fight against prejudice her whole life has set her up to deal with her magician standing by refusing to accept that it automatically makes her evil and forcing people to see that it doesn’t make her any different. As moral messages go, its beautifully simple but so impactful.

The pace is perfect, giving the reader time to learn with Amari yet also having the exciting fast action of the trials she must complete, I didn’t want to put this down, and rarely did as I found myself wanting to devour its pages through to its shocking ending which I 100% did not see coming at all, which for a children’s book (where the breadcrumbs are perhaps laid a little more clearly) I was pleasantly surprised with. Amari and the Night brothers is a perfect older children’s read (and adults!) full of magic and mayhem which is beautifully balanced with real life and real life issues, I implore you to add it to your must reads of 2021!

Biba’s review (age 10)

Biba hadn’t finished in time for the tour but her thoughts so far are: I like that there are lots of mysteries and how Amari’s supernatural ability was illegal, I found that a really interesting twist. I think Amari is very brave and loyal, and I’m excited to finish!

5 magical stars!