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The Blackhope Enigma, Teresa Flavin’s first novel transports readers to the enchanting world of Scotland. Filled with mysterious castles, labyrinths, and Renaissance knowledge it’s a joy for all.
Before the story of Blaise, Dean, and Sunni even begins, readers are thrown into the action of Renaissance Italy when they meet Fausto and Vito. The year is 1582 and the painter, Fausto Corvo, is seeking refuge from an enemy. He must find a way to protect himself and his work.
Back in modern times, Blaise and Sunni are working on a project for their art class, both having chosen the same artist the students run into each other in Blackhope Tower —home to one of Corvo’s famous paintings, “The Mariner’s Return to Arcadia.” As Sunni’s younger step-brother (Dean) pesters her, Blaise tries to entertain him with knowledge about Renaissance art. After reading an information plaque, Dean begins to wander around the maze that is built in to the floor, muttering “chiaroscuro” to himself. Suddenly, Dean disappears.
There are plenty of rumors throughout history about Corvo’s paintings being magical, but there had never been proof. Until now. In an attempt to save her brother, Sunni, goes in after him. The next day, Blaise tracks them into the painting too. But the painting, at first, isn’t as enchanted as one would expect a magical painting to be. The characters are still and lifeless; there is no food, no action.
Venturing deeper into the painting, layers are revealed that are alive, as much as the world they came from. And these underpaintings are inhabited by those who had come into the painting nearly 400 years before.
Eventually, the children are followed into the painting by their art teacher’s cousin, Angus. He will become only one of the many foes they must face before finding their way out of Corvo’s magical world and back into their own.
Flavin’s novel is filled with memorable, even if strange, character names that are easy to remember and help in creating her enchanted world. There is never a dull moment, even when there is no magic. She has created relationships that are complex and interesting between the main characters.
There is a Narnia like feel in the premise of being transported to another world, within a painting. The world on the opposite is, fittingly, more Gothic and complicated than it appears at face value. Brilliant imagery and the action sequences come to life. Flavin has created her own Corvo-like magical work in The Blackhope Enigma.
Be on the lookout for the sequel, The Crimson Shard, from Templar Books.