About the Book

Title: Petra K and the Blackhearts
Published: 2014

Cover Story: MechaGodzilla
BFF Charm: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Darkly Atmospheric
Bonus Factors: Dragons, Prague, Child Gangs
Anti-Bonus Factors: Boy King
Relationship Status: It’s Not Me, It’s You

Cover Story: MechaGodzilla

You’re welcome for now having Godzilla’s cry in your head for the rest of the day. Not a bad cover but not one that necessarily appeals to its target audience either.

The Deal

Pava is a re-imagined Prague, with an alchemical twist, ruled by a child king named Archibald the Precious and his army, The Boot. Petra K and her mother were once part of Pava’s elite, until her father disappeared/was killed and now they live in Jozseftown, i.e., The Wrong Side of the Tracks. Her mother is a selfish shut-in, having Petra K wait on her hand and foot while she does nothing but waste away in her bed drinking tea.

Miniature dragons (dragonka) have been bred and are shown in tournaments and kept by the upper classes, until they are outlawed after an outbreak of Dragonka Fever. After Luma, an abandoned dragonka, bonds to Petra K, an orphan gang called the Blackhearts befriend her so they all can mutually benefit from using him to compete in underground dragonka matches. The dragonka are being snatched away but no one knows for what purpose, so it’s up to Petra K and the Blackhearts to find out.

BFF Charm: Nay

BFF Charm that says "denied"

Petra K never really comes together as a character for me. I couldn’t see why she was making the choices she was, she just seemed like a giant plot device to bring together the many (and I mean MANY) plot twists. None of the characters are really fleshed out enough to sustain a connection with the reader, which makes this book really suffer.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

While I thought there would be potential romance with one of the boys in the Blackhearts, none of them were given enough of a personality for me to invest in one way or another. Besides, these kids are quite young, topping out at around 13.

Talky Talk: Darkly Atmospheric

One thing I will say favorably is that this book is rich with atmosphere, really pulling you into a world of magic and darkness, of dragons and sorcery, but to the point that it overshadows everything else in the book. There are so many elements that could be incredible if they were fully explored (an exiled group of people living in the sewers, another race of people that have wings tied and bound to their backs, a retired sorceress who runs a boutique and has a LIZARDMAN for a doorman) but this book is barely over 200 pages long! It’s going to be part of a series and, well, I sort of wish it wasn’t. It could have been given so much more life, such better direction and flow, actual personalities for its characters if it had been written as epic fantasy for younger readers. Instead it comes off as simply trying too hard, leaving you lost in all of the disjointed details.

Bonus Factor: Dragons

A dragon perched on a mountain top with his wings spread with the sun setting in the background

Good or evil or somewhere in between, I will always love a good dragon story. Unfortunately even little Luma doesn’t get much page-time, and I never felt the intense bond that he and Petra K supposedly shared.

Bonus Factor: Prague

Bird's eye view of Old Town in Prague, Czech Republic

A city I have yet to visit but am endlessly fascinated by (mostly thanks to the incredible Laini Taylor!).

Bonus Factor: Child Gangs

Screenshot from Peter Pan, with Peter holding a knife up

Oliver Twist, Peter Pan – there isn’t a group of Lost Boys out there that I don’t want to scoop up, bring home and make grilled cheese for.

Anti-Bonus Factors: Boy King

Archibald isn’t actually evil, but he is still very, very annoying. He’s referred to as Number One Playpal. Have I mentioned that the allusions to North Korea are a smidge on the obvious side?

Relationship Status: It’s Not Me, It’s You.

I wanted to get serious with you, Petra K. (Also, why are you called Petra K? Yet one more detail that isn’t fully explained. Argle bargle.) I love fantasy, and I’m a sucker for dragons and a rag-tag bunch of scrappy orphans who are trying to Fight the Power. This is a LITERARY CATNIP COCKTAIL for me and yet, we couldn’t make a connection. I hope that in future installments your choices make sense and that you and your fellow Blackhearts are sharpened into the people you deserve to be.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Young Europe Books. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (dammit!). Petra K. and the Blackhearts is available now.

About the Contributor:

Amanda Reid is an East Coast girl living in California who will never stop missing a true autumn. She’s a bookseller who specializes in kid and teen lit, and she bakes a damn fine pie.

This post was written by a guest writer or former contributor for Forever Young Adult.