title: the black veins
author: ashia monet
genre: urban fantasy
target audience: young adult
content warnings: violence, light drug use, gun use, mentions of deceased parents, discussions of anxiety and depression *note: there is a more detailed list of warnings in the beginning of the book!
my rating: highly recommended

i received an earc from the author in exchange for a review. this has not impacted my thoughts or opinions.

the black veins is the debut novel of ashia monet, and the first book in the dead magic series. it is an urban fantasy, following the seven chosen magician teenagers – guardians – as they embark on a road trip across america to find and save the family of one of their own. i had been dying to read this book for what feels like forever – you don’t even want to know for how long i’d been creeping in the #guardianswip hashtag on twitter, soaking in every little bit of information about this book i could find. going into it i tried to keep my expectations on ground level, this is a debut after all, but i had been hyping it up so much in my own mind. i’m happy to report, the black veins is everything i had hoped for and more.

if i were to apply one term to this book, it’d definitely be gen z. there are many other ways i’d like to describe it, and i’ll get to those, but the black veins is the most gen z book i have ever read. it is truly magnificent. i can’t wait for more talented, meme loving, internet dwelling teens and young adults to get to put their art into the world. there is just this amazing quality to it that i don’t think can be replicated by someone who isn’t in it. that “the world is ending but i need to stop at this gas station and get doritos” kind of attitude. now, that exact thing did not happen in this book, but that’s the kind of energy i’m talking about.

the black veins is also incredibly funny. like, real funny, where it seems like monet didn’t even have to try. it just came out that way. the way the seven guardians bounce off each other, the deadpan way they speak, is so hilarious i literally found myself snorting out loud and shaking with laughter on trains full of people on my way to and from work. and it’s not hilarious in an overdone way where the characters are cracking jokes all the time, it’s just the way their interactions are written. this whole book is honestly my exact brand of humour, and i don’t think i’ll ever be able to make it justice by just explaining, so i want to show y’all some of my favourite (non-spoilery) quotes that almost had me on the floor. the comedic timing is just, *chef’s kiss*

“[…] the only time he grows a spine is to defend her,” Cordelia retorts.
“I-I always have a spine,” Daniel mutters. “That’s how anatomy works.”

“I…” Caspian begins in a monotone, emotionless voice. “… love ramen.”

“How’d you get that scar?” She asks.
[…] “I cut myself on how edgy I am.”

Cordelia’s voice boomed down the hall. “STOP DOING WEIRD MAGIC, IT’S MESSING UP THE WIFI!”

the third thing the black veins is, is incredibly real. we see this magical world through the eyes of blythe fulton, a black, bisexual, teenage girl. she loves fiercely and will do anything for the good of her friends and family, but she is also very insecure, doesn’t think of herself as powerful enough to be able to pull all of this off, and questions herself constantly. and of course she will. not only is what she goes through way more horrible than what she should have to take, but she has grown up having to deal with a world that wants to see her fail because of who she is. she has learned to put on a brave face, for her little sisters, her parents, any friends she makes, and it’s only when she has been on the road with the guardians long enough that she feels comfortable letting go of that face for a bit. the seven guardians are all very different people – in how the grew up, where they’re from, how they act – but they have this one huge thing in common and it brings them together. they fit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and it’s once they’re together that they’re whole.

you can probably tell that i loved this book. i’ll admit, i found it a bit slow at the start when it was only blythe, but once the rest of the guardians started getting introduced one by one it quickly picked up. gotta get that found family action going, ya know? it’s really diverse, with a huge majority of the main cast being poc, and many of them also being queer. it’s about friendship and finding your people, and how even the worst times will be better with them by your side. there also isn’t a forced romance subplot taking up time (tho the flirting goes up about 1000% once jay joins the group lol), which i found really refreshing. so, if you’re looking for a diverse book about found family, with a magic road trip, i think you’d love the black veins, and i’d highly recommend you pre-order it!

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