Fairies, photography, ghosts, woods and a heart transplant. Yep, that’s In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

Book Reviews, children's books, Writing

When a heart transplant is suddenly availiable for her younger brother Theo, Alice is packed off to stay with her mysterious grandmother in her house in the middle of the woods. Her grandmother is determined to cut it down – but no one else wants her to; including, Alice’s new friend Flo says, the fairies. But can the fairies possibly be real? And why is it that Flo doesn’t seem to go to school? And will Theo be okay? And what secrets are hidden in the house?

Not until coming to write this did I realise how many plots are packed into this short book! In many ways it’s a Tom’s Midnight Garden story; weaving the past and present, magic and mystery all together to tell a tale. And it does it really well; presenting modernity and the past with subtlety and intrigue.

There are so many stories wound together here. I wasn’t sure for a long while how exactly they were going to fit together; and I think perhaps it could have been neater, but it did work out well. The characters from all the different eras were all intriguing and interesting; and the ways the stories flowed together and affected each other was nice.

I liked the raw realness of Alice’s family story interwoven with the mystery of the fairies and the woods; it felt like so many tales of children finding magic in the forest that helps them through their current circumstances. But Alice had an important role to play in this too; she had to learn to believe and to trust.

Friendship was also nicely portrayed; I believed in all of Alice’s various friends, and the characters generally were well drawn. Alice’s confusion as she tried to understand the various things that were going on around her was well done.

I really enjoyed this book, but find that I’m not quite passionate about it. Perhaps the edge of magic wasn’t quite magical enough – or maybe the links between it and the famous story of the kids who took photos of fairies spoiled it slightly for me. (What’s that film called? It always made me sad.) Or perhaps The Wolf Wilder, which I read afterwards, was just a bit better.

But this was great! I particularly like the engagement of the very real present with a magical past, which this book managed to do exceptionally well.

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