Published by Mindforest Press, 2021.
After a bomb explodes in Gwen’s street during the Birmingham Blitz, she is sent to Shropshire and the safety of her eccentric aunt’s woodland cottage. However, Gwen soon discovers that the countryside has its own peculiar dangers. The woods are alive with strange, magical creatures wielding frightening powers; to protect herself and her new friends, Gwen must face these creatures, and outwit them, alone.
The book is rich in Northern European mythology and ancient folklore. I loved the stories of the ancient woodland and its elves and tree sprites. These creatures have their own rites and traditions and their magic is sinister and mysterious. They have harnessed the power of the natural world and Gwen must do so too.
Gwen is a brilliant lead character; she’s determined and brave and extremely resourceful. In the final claustrophobic scenes, she holds her nerve and keeps her wits about her in the elves’ enchanted subterranean world. It’s a world that is vividly imagined and unsettling and not one I’d be keen to enter.
Another theme which runs throughout the book is grief and loss. The loss of a partner, and the loss of a child and a sibling are all sensitively explored. In addition, within the context of the book’s World War II setting, the characters are living under the constant threat of air raids and the possibility of a German invasion and we get a very clear idea of what this might have been like.
I particularly enjoyed the pace and atmosphere of the story. There’s a good balance between, on the one hand, mystery and a gradual build up of tension as Gwen learns more about the woods, contrasted with the drama of the book’s opening and its tense and exciting denouement.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to author Kate Innes for sending me this book to review.
Sounds like a great story, I must check it out.
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