In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

Received from NetGalley for review.

‘She made me see hope when everything felt dark. She taught me to believe in fairies.’

As soon as In Darkling Wood appeared on Goodreads, and then NetGalley, I knew I had to read it, whether that was through being approved on NetGalley or patiently waiting for the release. A mysterious old wood that could be the home of fairies? Hell yes on every single level. Add to that a crazy awesome title – it just screams magic – and I was sold. I needed it. I got it. And, wow, did it deliver.

In Darkling Wood is my first experience of Emma Carroll’s writing, and it certainly won’t be the last. In the story Alice’s younger brother, Theo, is finally getting the heart transplant he desperately needs, and with a useless father not really in the picture, Alice ends up at Nell’s – her father’s mother, someone she has never really known. Nell lives in the countryside, in a cottage that has three acres of land which is overrun with Darkling Wood, a wood Nell wants nothing more than to get rid of. Alice discovers that the woods aren’t all they seem and soon finds a strangely dressed girl, Flo, who only ever appears in the woods and swears fairies live there, fairies who do not want to lose Darkling Wood.

The narrative is broken up with letters from a young girl in 1918, to her brother who has been serving in the war, and tells her tale of the woods and fairies from many years before, which I found both fascinating and intriguing. I had an idea who the young girl was early on but this only added to my fascination whilst reading this story. In Darkling Wood constantly has you wondering and questioning what has happened, what is happening, and what is real.

There is a wonderful air of mystery and magic throughout the story; Alice finds Nell and her father to be hiding unexpected secrets that are all somehow linked with the woods and fairies. Alice has to find answers – why do Nell and her father hate each other? Why does Nell hates the woods? What in the mysterious room upstairs? Who is Flo, and could she possibly be right about fairies?

Carroll portrays Alice really well as a young teenager; a teenager who has had to deal with far too much responsibility whilst not being given all the information she deserves and I really felt for her and her situation. The other characters are also portrayed brilliantly and realistically, from Alice’s mother and father with their fraught relationship, to Nell, and even Alice’s new schoolmates; everyone was believable and essential to the plot and the undertones of forgiveness, family and love added depth to the story.

As far as middle grade novels go, In Darkling Wood is practically perfect, and Emma Carroll is an author who I know I will revisit frequently. The characters and plot are all excellently thought out and presented, the writing is lovely yet retains a certain simplicity, and the story is a wonderful mixture of magic, mystery and heartache that will delight readers of all ages.

Read: June 23rd-25th 2015

4/5 stars

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