Rust in the Root

Rust in the Root cover
Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland

By Justina Ireland
Balzer + Bray, 2022
439 pages

Age 13 and older

Laura Black, 17, left her small Pennsylvania hometown in 1937 for New York City with the goal of obtaining her mage license and becoming a baker to the stars. She’s down to a couple dollars and about to get evicted when she reluctantly accepts a government job as apprentice to The Skylark, the woman who’s head of the NYC Colored Auxiliary of the U.S. Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps. Government policy strictly controls the practice of magic, favoring a branch called Mechomancy (industrial, exploitative) over Dynamism (grounded in the natural world), although Dynamism practitioners like those at the Colored Auxiliary are relied on when things go wrong. Soon Laura, with the new name Peregrine, is on a mission with Skylark and others to the Ohio Deep Blight Zone, where something is wiping out the resonators needed to amplify Mechomancy’s reach. They find ghost towns; destruction; deadly shadows; and forces of white supremacy determined to raise a Norse god. To stop them, Peregrine must draw on the skills she learned growing up in her Black community, skills that she calls Craft and the government calls wytchcraft—and outlawed—as well as power she didn’t know she had. The riveting plot, captivating characters, and original world-building hang neatly on real-life history in this smart historical fantasy—the first in a series– in which magic is woven across the history and legacy of slavery and the power dynamics of politics and racism. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center