*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, NetGalley and Farrago. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Magic is forbidden in Myrsina, along with various other abominations, such as girls doing maths.
This is bad news for Gretel Mudd, who doesn’t perform magic, but does know a lot of maths. When the sinister masked Huntsmen accuse Gretel of witchcraft, she is forced to flee into the neighbouring Darkwood, where witches and monsters dwell.
There, she happens upon Buttercup, a witch who can’t help turning things into gingerbread, Jack Trott, who can make plants grow at will, the White Knight with her band of dwarves and a talking spider called Trevor. These aren’t the terrifying villains she’s been warned about all her life. They’re actually quite nice. Well… most of them.
With the Huntsmen on the warpath, Gretel must act fast to save both the Darkwood and her home village, while unravelling the rhetoric and lies that have demonised magical beings for far too long.
Take a journey into the Darkwood in this modern fairy tale that will bewitch adults and younger readers alike.
I absolutely love this book. It is perfection!
Darkwood is suitable for anyone from middle-grade to adult, as there is plenty of peril and adventure, but the strongest word (used in the direst situations) is ‘trousers’!
The plot takes classic fairytale characters such as Hansel and Gretel, or Jack of beanstalk fame, and tumbles and twists them about into something brand new, touching and very funny. Similarly there are ogres and unicorns, fairies and mermaids, but they may not look or behave exactly as you might expect.
Gretel, our main character, is forced into the woods for witchcraft and finds herself joining a jolly band of (mostly) friendly witches – and a talking spider, Trevor – as they attempt to protect the good folk against the wicked. Which is problematic because Gretel isn’t actually a witch…just very good at Maths. And she’s really not sure which folk are which!
There are some serious lessons here about how we treat those who are different; about hypocrisy and bravery; about judging on appearances, first impressions, gender or species. These morals are integral to the story but at no point do they intrude on the sheer entertainment of the action. There are simply cool-headed, logical STEM girls, tough kick ass girls, sensitive boys who worry and overthink… and a talking spider who thinks that sunglasses and a big hat make him inconspicuous! Everyone does what they do best and delightful mayhem ensues.
This is a well-written twisted fairytale with great characters and world-building and I am exceptionally happy that the ending clearly points to a sequel. May there be many more adventures in the Darkwood!
You don’t go into the Darkwood. That’s one of the first lessons every child learns in Myraina. All sorts of nasty things live out there, amongst the twisted trees and brambles. That’s where the witches and the beasties creep, and if you go in there, you’ll never come out again, or you’ll come back all wrong, and won’t be able to live with notmal decent folk any more. Stay away from the Darkwood, child, don’t even go near. Unless… well… house prices are so cheap on the outskirts of the wood.
– Gabby Hutchinson Crouch, Darkwood
Darkwood is out on Amazon right now!