Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Amari Peters misses her older brother Quinton, who has been missing for six months. When Amari receives a mysterious delivery, supposedly from Quinton himself, it seems like she might be getting closer to finding out where he is. But to go further, she has to take an enormous leap of faith, and attend summer camp at a covert supernatural organisation. Amari enters the intensive training program at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, competing with hundreds of other kids for coveted traineeships. She tries to stay focused on finding out what happened to Quinton, but gets swept up in the Bureau’s battle against an evil magician.
I haven’t been this excited about a fantasy series since Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series or Scarlett Thomas’s Worldquake Sequence. Amari and the Night Brothers contains all the ingredients I love in a magical middle grade (dangerous tests; magical specialties; a dastardly villain) but it is thrillingly fresh and original. While there’s action, plot twists and a great cast of instructors and students, what really sets this book apart for me is the way the real and the supernatural worlds mirror each other. Amari is bullied at school and, as a young Black girl, is frequently limited by other people’s perceptions of her. Within the Bureau, she’s seen as an outsider because of the nature of her talents, and it’s still the kids with access to resources and opportunities who excel.
This is an inventive, fun and heartfelt debut; it’s guaranteed to please young readers who love magic, friendship and adventure. For ages 9+.