A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell #bookreview #YA #contemporaryfantasy

When her siblings start to go missing, a girl must confront the dark thing that lives in the forest—and the growing darkness in herself—in this debut YA contemporary fantasy for fans of Wilder Girls.

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time.

Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices.

As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all. 

A dark thing living in a forest, siblings going missing, magic – who wouldn’t want to know about the nefarious goings on in those trees?

Derry and her siblings have lived in a secluded house with their guardian, Frank, since their parents abandoned them due to difficulties with their magic. They don’t share the same parents (except for two sets of twins), but have been raised together and formed very close bonds as a result of their circumstances. Although most of the siblings fear Frank a little and dislike him, he takes care of them and offers protection from the nearby townfolk (they call the siblings witches), but they never leave the grounds and have no connection with the outside world. Each of the siblings possess different types of magic, and Frank teaches them not only how to enhance their abilities, but also how to control them.

The author provides a wonderfully diverse and inclusive cast with representation of different sexualities, body types, and races. The relationships between these siblings are one of my favorite aspects of the novel – they’re ride or die for each other – although I have to admit the introduction of so many characters in the first few pages is a little overwhelming. Even so, you’ll settle in and find it easy to empathize with them. Something seems off with Frank and his methods, and you can’t help but root for them to find a better living situation.

Although the end is a whirlwind of action, pacing was a little uneven for me in the middle. Derry is forced to make some difficult choices and cross into morally gray areas, but it all seems justified and I had no trouble going along with her decisions. Once the whirlwind is over, I appreciated that the author gives the reader a glimpse of what’s in store for these characters in the future.

This standalone novel offers an exceptionally inclusive cast of characters and provides a nice blend of mystery, a touch of horror, and magic for an enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

19 thoughts on “A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell #bookreview #YA #contemporaryfantasy

  1. I sense shades of Oliver Twist. A loose, modern, magical retelling. (Says the girl who hasn’t read the novel.) Sounds like a rich storyworld. I wonder why the author chose a standalone rather than a series. Glad you enjoyed the book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And you’re saying this to another person who hasn’t read Oliver Twist, lol. With so many series out there, I’m kind of glad the author made this a standalone. I will say she didn’t completely close the door on a series, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder why there are eight siblings. Did the introduction introduce the eight of them plus other characters? The way to introduce characters is tricky and could be boring. It seems the author has a great plan for the series. A blend of mystery and horror sounds interesting. Thank you for the review, Teri.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not really sure why there were eight, but in the first severaly pages just the siblings and their caretaker were introduced. It helped that there were two sets of twins. Their varying types of magic also helped to set them apart. Thanks for visiting, Miriam!

      Like

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