Self-published Authors Appreciation Week: The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham


Banner credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

Welcome to the second annual Self-published Authors Appreciation Week (#SPAAW), a weeklong event celebrating self-published authors. Please feel free to join in the fun by shouting about your favorite self-published authors on your various platforms.

Before getting to the review, I have to give a little backstory. My oldest son occasionally allows me to share book reviews that he’s written. Author A.R. Witham heard about that and sent a copy of his book, along with a kind and supportive note, to my son. It meant so much to my son and I am so grateful to the author for this kindness. My son reviewed The Legend of Black Jack as well (you can find his review here).

Jack Swift can remember anything—even the horrible things he’d like to forget. To keep his guilt-ridden memories from haunting him, and to dodge his abusive foster mom, he buries himself in any book he can find, dreaming of his ultimate escape: becoming a doctor.

But fate has another escape in mind.

At 3:33am on his fourteenth birthday, Jack is kidnapped by a monstrous rhinoceros and whisked away to another sphere of existence: the land of Keymark. Though this world is filled with pixies, monsters, pirates, elves, warriors, and all sorts of mythical wonders, it is without healing magic—that magic was stolen by an evil, immortal prince hell-bent on domination. With no understanding of medical science to heal their wounds or illnesses, Jack’s kidnappers ask the impossible of him: use his knowledge to save a life…or be trapped in this bizarre world with no chance of rescue.

Jack doesn’t have secret magic, a great destiny, or any medical experience.

Why do they all expect him to become a legend? (Taken from Amazon)

The Legend of Black Jack is a fast-paced book full of adventure and heart. The novel centers around the most likeable main character, a boy named Jack who has an eidetic memory. After losing his father and bouncing from foster home to foster home, Jack- whose thirst for knowledge is matched only by his desire to become a doctor- finds himself embarking on a new adventure with the most unlikely of characters.

They say he was an outsider. A man with no home, no family, no friend to call his own. The man with nothing left to love. The empty man.”

The beginning reminded me so much of The Name of the Wind, which was astonishing considering the difference in target age. I loved how it was written and I was immediately drawn in. The book continues wonderfully, not only keeping me invested, but keeping my oldest son invested as well. It was awesome being able to talk about the plot and our favorite characters together.

I loved that Jack’s strengths were the things that people might have found odd about him: his fascination with how the body works and bits of knowledge gleaned from encyclopedias. These are not the usual trappings of the hero in a story, and it was genius. He was an incredibly nuanced character, who grew and changed as he experienced new things and dealt with growing fears.

Jack having fears and continuing on despite them made me like him all the more. This is the sort of book that, on top of being tons of fun, middle-grade and high school readers will relate to. Sure, the setting is fantastical, but the things Jack deals with transfers over to real-life fears and doubts. I think the stories that often stick with us the most are the ones that do this.

The creatures and characters that show up throughout The Legend of Black Jack are fantastic! While my son’s favorite character was Chance, I was partial to Rooker the pirate. His relationship with Jack and the way it grew and developed, was wonderful to read.

The world was full of creativity and rip-roaring adventure, which I loved. At the end of the day, though, the relationships were what made me fall in love with this novel. My 14 year old loved the book – and so did I. The Legend of Black Jack is something special.

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