Genres: Middle Grade, Horror, Mystery, Fantasy
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Number of pages: 496
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Check out on GOODREADS
Buy on AMAZON | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY
When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic . . . except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr’s Realm. But mostly it’s called the Thickety.
The black-leaved trees swayed toward Kara and then away, as though beckoning her.
The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother.
And that is just the beginning of the story.
This book surprised me. A LOT.
You see, a few weeks ago, I thought to myself that perhaps I should give an equal focus to Middle Grade books coming out this year for a variety of reasons: one, they’re usually shorter; two, the plot is more focused (therefore not all over the place), and; three, it’s more light-hearted than many of the Young Adult ones that I’m surrounded with. So when I found myself staring at an ARC of The Thickety: A Path Begins, I thought I’d finally read something that would give me all three.
Man, was I wrong.
My friends, do not read this book if you’re looking for something that could make you laugh and cry and be in cloud nine. This book is not it. This book will squeeze your pumping heart, pull your heartstrings, make you see red, and wonder why is there a thing such as ‘evil’ in this pitiful, pathetic world. It will make you hate humans and bratty, spoiled girls who are fond of power trips at the expense of others. This will make you scared of anything that resembles a forest. You will want to cover yourselves with blankets, and wish for bizarre shadows to go away. You will never see remote islands the same way again. The cold of the night will give you cold sweat, and the sight of rats and insects will make you run for your life. You will wonder if there is such a thing as happiness in this world.
I may be stretching it out a bit, but I shit you not when I say that this is a dark book. It may label itself as Middle Grade, but I don’t recommend giving it to children who are sensitive to dark themes such as death, dark magic, murder, psychopaths, and severe cases of ostracisation. It’s highly disturbing and atmospheric in a sense, and seeing children involved in these things makes it a notch more damaging to one’s mental self. This book honestly felt like going to hell, meeting the devil and its children, and then going back barely surviving the horrors you faced.
Kara’s mother was executed for allegedly killing two people through her witchcraft ways when she was 5 years old, nearly 7 years ago. Since then, Kara has been taking care of herself and her baby brother, Taff, making herself strong enough for both of them as they are constantly scrutinized, discriminated upon, and ostracised by the villagers for the mere fact her mother was a witch. One day, a bird beckons her to follow it into the Thickety, a mysterious forest with a dark life of its own, the very same forest where the Forest Demon, Sordyr, lives, making it forbidden and utterly dangerous. Deep into the forest, she sees the Grimoire, a magical book that eventually allows her to practice Witchcraft. From then on, she finds herself slowly discovering the cruel, awful truth… that magic is power, and power kills.
Like I said before, this is a very dark book. The treatment the villagers give to 12 year old Kara alone is enough to make you see red. It’s absolutely dreadful, and it even made me feel a wee bit depressed and sad for her. Nobody deserves to be constantly mocked behind your back for something you had no control over. Nobody deserves to have their house vandalized night after night by mud and dung. Nobody deserves to be bullied by seemingly charitable people like Grace who presents herself as sweet and innocent, but treats Kara inferior to dirt. From the get-go, you instantly feel for the main character and her little brother, Taff. The fact that their father has become a negligent parent because of what happened to his wife makes their situation all the more heartbreaking.
With that said, you’ll understand Kara’s frustrations, and even some of her dark thoughts. And when she gets her hands on the Grimoire, a magical book that stores spells for witches, you even feel like cheering on for her. You start to look forward to her using it to smite those who laughed and spat at her face. (I feel so evil now)
Surprisingly, this book got even darker at that point. For once, finally having power over others makes Kara’s ego balloon. The more she uses the book, the more she becomes obsessed with it, to the point of sleeping with it, and having nightmares when she doesn’t use it. At this point, you become concerned for her, and you’ll start to wonder if you even know this girl at all. That’s what happened to me at least. Chapter after chapter, Kara gradually became a trainwreck that it was painful to watch her slowly get overcome with power that was so easily abused. It felt like seeing another Sophie (School of Good and Evil) come to life. The character development from bad to good to bad to good was so strong and evident that her actions left me uneasy and full of trepidation.
Doki, doki, doki, doki…
Do you hear that?
That’s my heart beating fast and my sanity ebbing away. That’s how intense this book was.
And then, there is Grace: the girl with the white hair and beautiful smile who look at others with a twinkle in her eye. She is devil incarnate. She is CHUCKY in woman’s clothing. And you guys surely remember Chucky? That evil doll? If not, let me refresh your repressed memories:
I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING.
I’ve never been scared and angry of a kid this much. This girl is absolutely heartless. She makes me scared of kids (okay maybe not, but she’s making me second guess them now). Characters like her lead me to believe it is hell on earth, because only demons can be that evil. Let’s just say if you’re not of the faint of heart, you’d really rather not meet this girl at all.
OKAY SCRATCH THAT PLEASE READ THIS BOOK SO I CAN SHARE THIS FEAR WITH SOMEONE!!!
Overall, here’s a checklist:
- If you want a dark book with witches, hateful villagers, scary forests, and Chucky-like characters, this is the book for you.
- If you like atmospheric stuff with a hint of horror, mystery, and thriller, this book is for you.
- If you like good character development, this book is for you.
- If you like a well-written Middle Grade book, and be damned scary stuff, this book is for you.
I think I shall rest my case here. My blanket is looking really cozy right now, and I want to sleep under the covers tonight.
P.S: THAT ENDING WAS SUPER, SUPER, SUPER, SUPER CRUEL. I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING AND WHILE IT WAS BRILLIANT, IT WAS SUPER HEART-RENDING AT THE SAME TIME. WAAAAAH!!
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