The Black Mage by Daniel Barnes
Illustrated by DJ Kirkland
Thomas Token has been invited to enroll in the elite St. Ivory Academy of Spellcraft and Sorcery. Thanks to the Magical Minority Initiative, Tom is the first Black mage to be admitted. There, he meets Lindsey Whitethorn, and he suffers through her well-meaning questions about Black mages, such as whether he’s proud to be the first Black mage, and other micro-aggressions. She is his campus liaison, and the two become friends when Lindsey helps Tom’s crow, Jim, get healed after a skirmish with the headmaster’s son. The teachers all wear robes too alike to Klan garb, but Tom goes along in his studies until someone slips him the ID card of another Black mage. Tom’s investigations into this uncover a grizzly secret at the very core of St. Ivory’s existence.
I don't know why I slept so long on this title. This is a fun story for Harry Potter types, but it mixes in a heavy dose of (unfortunate) racial reality for many students that they face on a daily basis. Tom is a great main character who just wants to learn, not be the spokesperson for the entire Black community. However, the magic in the story isn't really explained, as some characters use wands and others can use just their hands. I did appreciate all of the references to other geekdoms - I caught Final Fantasy, Zelda, Fresh Prince, Sailor Moon, Thor, but there are probably others - inclusion of historical elements - the crow named Jim, pieces of the Underground Railroad, and the MAGA movement - and tongue-in-cheek moments - like Tom's last name. The illustrations are familiar like Saturday Morning Cartoons, with beautiful bright colors. The magic sequences are beautiful. This is a great story that is enjoyable but poignant and timely.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 8-12
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
ISBN: 9781620106525 (Paperback)
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Graphic Fiction, Magic, School Life, Race Relations, Oni Press
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I've been reading manga and comicbooks for years. Now, I write reviews and other helpful things for School Librarians, teachers, parents, and students.
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