I was a big fan of Mafi’s narrative style in Furthermore, and I am so pleased that Whichwood follows a similar style, with a narrator retelling the story of these children almost like an omniscient reporter. It’s such a fun, and whimsical voice that I love seeing in her middle grade books. And while you don’t necessarily HAVE to read Furthermore before Whichwood, I would highly recommend you do as many of the characters from Furthermore make an appearance in Whichwood, making this book, often times, feel like a continuation of Alice’s story, just as much as Laylee’s. That being said, Laylee’s story is dark and tragic. When your main character is a thirteen year old girl, alone, washing the dead in all manner of decay, you have to expect this to be a darker story than Furthermore, even if that book also had its moments of fear and sadness. But Laylee’s story is… different, and that’s why I don’t think it’s truly a middle grade book.
I don’t even know where to really begin with this book because… Oh my lord, THIS BOOK! Be forewarned, this review won’t contain purposeful spoilers, but since it’s the last book in a trilogy, if you haven’t read the first two books then 1. You should go do that—immediately. And 2. This review may spoil some things from those books just because that’s the nature of this particular beast. I don’t usually fangirl in my book reviews, but when it comes to Hackett’s books, it’s really hard for me not to. Her stories are magical and full of adventure and twists and turns, her characters are endearing and complex, she gives you just enough sweetness before punching you in the gut, but then makes it up to you with fun character banter. “Ventus” pays off on all of the set up from the previous two books but with some of my favorite character arcs and redemptions of the whole series.
It may seem like a bad idea to read a book about a bio-chemical weapon that exhibits like a flu and prompts mass panic during an actual pandemic, but that’s what I did and it was a kind of interesting study in how reality and fiction can blur sometimes. In Myers novel, a bio-chemical is released in a small town, which appears to be done on purpose for "research". When these strange flu-like symptoms prompt the schools to close early, it sparks our main character’s father, who works at the lab that seems to be responsible, to flee with his teenage son and their next door neighbor and his teenage niece. The rest of the novel occurs over the course of 3 to 4 days as the group races from the quarantined zone—now without cell service and a military presence—to get to the family cabin and potential safety. This is an incredibly fast paced young adult, action romance with a unique twist on the “zombie” genre.
The first thing you should know about “Between the Shade and the Shadow” is that it is atmospheric AF. Really, the writing is prose filled, the land is cast in constant darkness where the light can kill our sprites, and there is a dark secret on what turns a shade into a sprite, and where the shade’s loyal animal companion—their shadow—goes when that transformation takes place. Few sprites have the mental capacity to bond themselves to powerful animals, most seem to have foxes, squirrels, or other small woodland creatures. Strong shades can bond to proud eagle owls, but only the strongest can bond to a wolf as our main character, Ahraia, has done. This marks her as someone with incredibly strong mental capacity for casting enchantments, who can create darkness—basically bending trees and making the forest into impenetrable fortresses of night—and eventually lead her people. But there is a price for that leadership that Ahraia is woefully ignorant of, and those who are power hungry around her are all too eager and willing to use Ahraia and the shadow, the wolf Losna, to achieve their own goals, even if that means they have to sacrifice Ahraia herself. This book is as thematically dark as it is literally dark at times, and it’s one of the more epic, high fantasies I’ve read in a hot minute.
Are you like me and hold a special place for Greek Mythology in your heart? Do you also enjoy YA dystopians with some seriously tragic characters? Then let me introduce you to “Helm of Darkness”. In a nutshell, this book is about the classic Greek Gods (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, you know, that old gang) getting fed up with being forgotten by us mortals. So, in classic Greek God fashion, they destroy the world and make all us mortals worship them once more. How charming. Except there’s this prophecy, because of course, and this prophecy says that two mortals are going to save the day! Usually I am not the biggest fan of these types of tropes, but I was here for it this time.
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