A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Fantasy meant to entertain.
Even if it seems like you don't have a choice, you always have the power or the option to choose what you do and how you do it. You can change what you are, no matter what you think you were meant to be. Explores the difference between having a heart and having a soul, what each does to you and for you, and what not having either one or both does to you.
Positive Role Models
Owen, 17, is a great role model for compassion, courage, and curiosity. He dotes on his 2-year-old sister, enjoys helping his astronomer father, and takes care of the household since his mother disappeared. Seren doesn't think she's capable of resisting her mother's commands or that she'll ever be anything but a monster. She tries avoiding the problem by running away, but learns that that doesn't make the problem go away. She proves that she's willing to sacrifice everything instead of continuing to do her mother's evil bidding.
Violence & Scariness
Fantasy violence includes fantasy creatures using their power and strength to kill people, mostly by tossing them around. The sounds of bones breaking, lots of blood, and pain are described in some detail. Torture in the fantasy realm includes ripping skin off, snapping fingers off, and a device boring into the victim's chest that leaves open holes behind. Blood and pain are described. Sex and violence are briefly paired once when a couple kisses and the fantasy creature accidentally caresses too hard and draws blood. Two characters pull out their own hearts. A large-scale battle involves intense descriptions of injuries from swords, fire, and magic.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few kisses, mention of bodies pressing together, caressing, and holding hands. Talk about bedding a woman with a "rude gesture." A kiss is briefly paired with violence when accidentally caressing cheeks too hard and drawing blood.
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Very rarely, "damned" and "hell."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Into the Heartless Wood is a fantasy romance with lots of violence between a human boy and a magical siren of the forest. All the violence is in the fantasy realm and includes descriptions of blood, bones breaking, and pain in some detail. Sexual content includes a brief pairing with violence when the siren accidentally caresses the boy's cheek too hard and draws blood. Otherwise there are a few kisses and some romantic dynamics. The only strong language is a few instances of "damned" and "hell." Losing a parent is a prominent theme.
Is It Any Good?
This is a beautifully written, epic romantic fantasy feels like a dark fairy tale wrapped up in an imaginative world that feels both familiar and completely original. Fantasy fans who can handle the violence are sure to find a lot to enjoy about Into the Heartless Wood. Author Joanna Ruth Meyer's prose is often lyrical, though sometimes a bit overwrought, and her talents for description and world building are especially strong. The story is gripping, and alternating between Owen and Seren as narrators gives added insight into each of their worlds as it keeps the pages turning. Teens especially will relate to the themes of trying to become something other than you were made to be, what it means to have a heart and a soul, and more.
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