Published on 20 October 2020
Genres: Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy & Magic, Royalty, Young Adult
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Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.
Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.
As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I was looking forward to this book so much, because I love stories about magical girls who save the day, and I also love foxes, so I was super keen to read about a magical girl who had a fox companion and a creepy, cursed forest. Unfortunately I got really sick and was unable to complete this ARC before its release date.
This book is set in a fantasy world where the royal family are pyromages, and the kingdom is set next to a cursed wood that no one is supposed to enter. Our magical lead Carys is the royal gardeners’ daughter and the princess’s best friend, and her main struggle is that she’s believed all her life that she can be happy where she sets down her roots… but she secretly yearns for something more.
On coronation day, tragedy strikes, and Carys must enter the cursed wood and solve all the mysteries with the help of her foxy companion and a grey bear.
What I loved most about this book was that the characters were so realistically flawed. They didn’t make dumb decisions, just bad ones (and yes there is a difference!). They felt fear and sometimes let it overtake them, and sometimes they found the courage to fight back. Cerys wasn’t a super-powered warrior, she was a completely normal person who had a very strange magic that could be both very useful and completely useless in any given situation. I liked that she struggled with finding her worth and her place in the world. She wasn’t stubborn (which seems like a base flaw to give YA characters, ergh) but she was incredibly determined, and I really liked that. I also loved the character of the fox, not just because I am obsessed with foxes, but because of his characterisation and relationship with Cerys.
The wood was super creepy with cursed, zombie-like tree people creatures trying to eat people. I’ve read a few books now with cursed forests and this one was by far the scariest and most atmospheric.
I don’t want to spoil anything since it was a lot of fun being with Cerys and unravelling the mysteries along with her. I did guess at once of the mysteries fairly early on (which I think we’re supposed to, given what the author ahs said about the book in promos), but I wasn’t able to guess the other mysteries and plot twists until they were exposed.
The writing was so beautiful, with the perfect balance of descriptions, actions, and characterisation. It flowed well and was easy to consume, and I found it very engaging. Although the undead wood things can be a bit tense, it was overall a beautiful soft fairytale reminiscent of a more grown up Disney.
There was literally nothing I did not like about this book. I’m going to hunt down this author’s Heart of Iron duology next!