In this beautiful and quirky YA debut with paranormal hints, J. L. Sullivan delivers a captivating tale centered on the complexities of having one’s wishes granted. Baxter “Bax” Allen is a sophomore living with his mother — his parents split up 13 years ago and his mother must do two jobs to make ends meet. Amidst his bouts of stress and dealing with bullies, Bax still believes that something good will happen to him. One night, a stranger with purple eyes meets Bax on his way home from his best friend’s house and insists that he accepts a ring for his estranged father. Baxter is startled the next day when the ring produces a djinn, Janni, willing to offer its services to him. While the djinn is there to help Baxter achieve most of his heart’s desires, he also unwittingly unleashes Ifrit — a sinister creature with goat-like legs and a pointed tail that feeds on Bax’s subconscious, doing everything to bring about what he truly desires, including manipulation, threats, and even murder. This creature creates chaos and leaves a trail of crimes that might lead back to Baxter, and he must unravel the mystery about the creature quickly and banish it before it is too late.
This is a cleverly plotted and beautifully written tale with characters that instantly arrest the interests of readers. From Brick & Darkness by J. L. Sullivan features superior storytelling and the author’s ability to capture strong imagery and to write human emotions with uncanny clarity will delight readers. The first-person narrative voice presents an unmistakably clear perspective and creates a strong connection between the reader and the protagonist. The fluidity in writing melds with the vivid descriptions and the engaging dialogues to offer an immersive reading experience. From the get-go, the scenes are focused, and instead of telling readers things, this author succeeds to make them feel with their hearts and see with their mind's eyes. The protagonist is a young boy who is nervous when readers encounter him for the first time. He is a young man who carries deep inner scars but who continues to hope against all hope that something beautiful will happen, including falling in love, having his parents reunited, and dealing with the doldrums of daily life. When he is trapped between a good-meaning djinn and a sinister creature, he begins to truly examine the deepest desires of his heart. There is a quirkiness in the narrative that shines through Janni, the djinn. This is an endearing story that examines the climates of a poor heart, a well-crafted tale that is emotionally rich and that tugs on every heartstring. This page-turner is a winner for anyone looking for a magical tale filled with realism and humanity.