A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods.
The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.
Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.
To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.
But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.
I don’t read many middle grade books, but I make an exception when it’s written by one of my favorite authors.
Barclay Thorne carries the weight of many worries. He was orphaned after a beast killed his parents and now has to work as an apprentice to a mushroom farmer for meals and shelter. He worries about making his deceased parents proud of him. Dullshire (his village) regularly posts new rules he has to remember (sneezing is prohibited in the town square). And then there are all the creatures in the Woods that could potentially eat him. He’s also very determined not to have anything to do with Lore (magic), which is outlawed in Dullshire. When he accidentally bonds with a Beast in the Woods and is barred from his village, his worries become nearly overpowering.
Worldbuilding is richly detailed and full of whimsical appeal. The author has constructed a magical world full of creatively named creatures, plants, etc. The classes of beasts and their powers is clever and easy to understand, and a guide listing all of them is included at the end. I especially enjoyed that the author’s cat inspired one of the creatures (Mitzi is adorable!).
This is an absolutely delightful first book in a series I plan to continue. Barclay is a very relatable MC, and the supporting characters (especially Viola) are fun and well-developed. With plenty of humor, unlikely friendships, a thrilling adventure, and some heartwarming moments, this book is about discovering what truly makes you happy and finding where you belong.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.