What’s it all about?:
‘You’re telling me there are fairies in this wood?’
When Alice’s brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother’s house. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden – but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn’t seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?
What did I think?:
I’m a huge fan of Emma Carroll’s writing which is aimed at middle grade readers but can easily be read by children and adults alike. In fact, I like to think it brings out my inner child which I did think was permanently dormant until I get lost in one of her stories. Everything about this story is just beautiful. From the stunning cover art and inviting title to the story and characters within, the author has managed to write an inspiring tale that had me enraptured until I had finished it.
Once again, our main protagonist is female and just as charming and delightful as the author’s previous female leads in Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked On Air. Her name is Alice and she has already been through the emotional mill and dealt with much more than a young teenager should have to. Her parents are (quite acrimoniously) separated and she has quite a difficult and distant relationship with her father and her father’s family. To top it all off, her little brother Theo is seriously ill and at the beginning of the novel, gets a long awaited call to have a heart transplant which will undoubtedly save his life. Alice is packed off to live with her grandmother on her father’s side, Nell while the upheaval with Theo is going on.
Nell lives right alongside Darkling Wood, a magical place where Alice manages to make her first friend – Flo, who dresses strangely and only meets her within the wood. Flo tells Alice all about the fairies who call Darkling Wood their home and that they are desperately worried. You see, some of the trees are causing a bit of damage to Nell’s house and Nell has become determined to get rid of the entire wood, despite the pleas of the other people in the town to desist. If this happens, the fairies will lose their home. Alongside this story, we also see wonderful letters from 1918 that a young girl who used to live there wrote to her brother, fighting in the war. Alice has a multitude of things to deal with – worries about her brother, her relationship with her grandmother and father, learning about the past and trying to change the present, all the paranoia that comes with starting a new school and being an outsider, learning to believe in fairies and magic again, healing rifts and building bridges that have been broken for so long.
I was always going to be excited about another Emma Carroll book, let’s be honest. An Emma Carroll book about fairies? Well, knock everything else off the TBR pile, I had to read this one ASAP. Of course, I was in no way disappointed. This wonderful story had everything I wanted and so much more. I loved the fairies, granted but this novel is so much more than that. It’s bittersweet, occasionally dark and sometimes heart-breaking and explores beautifully the complexity of human relationships in such a gentle, intelligent way. I especially loved the nod to actual events, where Arthur Conan Doyle visits girls who have reported that they have seen fairies. The author reminds me with every books that she writes of the old magic and strong characters that I used to live for in children’s literature. She deserves every bit of praise that is written about her and while I eagerly anticipate her next novel, I just want to wholeheartedly thank her for making me believe in fairies again.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):