By Teresa Flavin
Candlewick Press, $15.99, 280 pages
The Blackhope Enigma begins in 14th century Venice with a cryptic conversation between an astrologer and a painter. Teresa Flavin’s first book chronicling Sunni and Blaise’s adventures in Europe connects the distant past with the immediate future to create an action-packed mystery suitable for both middle and high school audiences.
Fourteen-year-old Sunni Forrest and Blaise Doran are dedicated artists. Sunni envies Blaise’s talent while Blaise admires Sunni’s skills from afar. When they learn they’ve both chosen the same artist, Fausto Corvo, for a school project, they become competitive as they study the “great master’s” work inside the Blackhope Tower.
However, when Sunni’s 12 year old brother Dean disappears into Corvo’s painting through a magical labyrinth – and Sunni and Blaise follow – the pair must eventually learn to work together, braving mazes, monsters, whirlpools and ambitious villains, if they are to ever escape the magical painting.
While The Blackhope Enigma has a rather cryptic beginning, it quickly delves into a compelling plot that will captivate both younger and older teens. Modern young adult fiction often neglects traditional adventure plots and themes of true friendship, but Flavin resurrects these classics with a new spin that is sure to appeal to her young readers.