PURCHASE:Amazon | Book Depository
After Kara Westfall’s village turns on her for practicing witchcraft, she and her brother, Taff, flee to the one place they know they won’t be followed: the Thickety. Only this time the Forest Demon, Sordyr, is intent on keeping them there. Sordyr is not the Thickety’s only danger: unknown magic lurks behind every twist and shadow of the path. And then Kara and Taff discover Mary Kettle, an infamous witch with an unspeakable past—she is everything their village fears about magic.
When Mary shows them the path leading out of the Thickety guarded by Imogen, a creature more monster than human, Kara is hesitant to trust her. But then she offers to help Kara learn to cast magic without a grimoire…and this could be Kara and Taff's only chance to escape.
Or the first step down a dark and wicked path.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
When it comes to dark books, this is dark as dark can be in a supernatural sense, which is quite surprising given how this is a bloody MIDDLE GRADE BOOK. Like seriously, it has a twelve year old and a seven year old, experiencing so many things that would have made me run for the hills already. The blurb calls it a “middle grade fantasy”, but a more accurate description would be, “middle grade that sends you to hell, and takes you back just to send you to hell again”. Yup.
But who’s complaining? I certainly am not. As a lover of dark books, I welcome the second installment of a series whose first book successfully made me want to stay the fuck away from possibly psychopathic children playing with powers of demonic origin. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: do not read this book if you’re looking for something that would make you laugh, cry and be in cloud nine. There is no puking of rainbows and butterflies here. In this installment, we have a living, breathing forest full of creepy wonders; siblings running for their lives; and, oh, a whole bunch of other things like death, betrayal, forest demons, originally-kind-turning-into-scary kids as they keep using their powers…
I present to you ME after reading this book:
What I really love about this series as a whole is how scary they portray magic and witches to be. So many times I’ve picked up books about witches, only to read about love potions and boring spells that won’t even faze a toddler. I mean, come on, that’s not even exploring the potential of one’s capabilities, and the repercussions one gets when they abuse their powers.
That’s where J.A. White’s books get it right: the concept of magic not being a one-sided thing. Yes, you get to use some spells, but in exchange, this unseen, yet terrifying force takes something from you, too. A memory or two, a bit of your humanity here and there, which may sound really harmless at first glance, but can get deadly if abused… because the question lingers: what would become of you when you’ve forgotten who you were, or when you don’t have a single ounce of compassion left?
That’s a big chunk of why this series is so scary to me. It’s not the magic, it’s not even that big, bad boogeyman chuckling evilly in the forest, beckoning you to come closer. It’s the fact that ANYONE – even an innocent, honest person – can be tempted to use magic for ANYTHING, only to yearn for it more and more after the first bite. How the continuous, extreme uses of something such as magic can push people downwards to a never-ending abyss of obsession. How it can turn someone into a new person… and oftentimes, for the worse.
Add to the fact that in this second book, Kara and her brother are now in the Thickety itself, a forest made of evil and your worst nightmares. And when I say it’s scary, I mean, holy-shit-I’m-pissing-my-pants scary. I remember reading this part where our characters get to an “abandoned” village… only to realize it’s not abandoned at all, and all the villagers have been turned into Darkeaters, where their physical body has been turned into something else, and the real ones are the shadows… like seriously, doesn’t that just creep you out?!
And every step of the way, every minute we accompany Kara and her brother in their adventure, we wouldn’t be able to help but feel for her. She has gone through so much, even went almost to the deep end, that you just want her to succeed. She definitely grows a lot here. She becomes more involved and more cautious of her powers and how they are to be used, and takes note how they are a double-edged sword (she’s a smart cookie!), making the ride into the Thickety far more interesting and engaging.
If you’re scared of reading one-dimensional characters, you need not fear when it comes to this one, because even side characters here are as complex as our heroine, perhaps even more so.
Yes, the book is still scary and creepy and disturbing, but, it’s kind of noble in a weird sense, in my opinion. Because despite all the dark things this is full of, it somehow serves as a gentle reminder to us, too, of what it means to be human and how important it is not to let go of that one thing that keeps us grounded.
One thing is for sure: if you haven’t read the first book, do it now, and THEN read this one. You won’t regret it, I promise.
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