The Whispering Trees: The Thickety, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Whispering Trees: The Thickety, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Creepy sequel has violent clashes, ethical dilemmas.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Any readers who fail to add "grimoire" (a book for casting spells) to their vocabulary cannot blame the author, who uses the word (and concept) relentlessly.

Positive Messages

In a world where nothing is what it seems, there's a strong message of self-reliance to the point of distrust: "Taff -- you have to understand. No one is going to help us. We have to get through this by ourselves," says Kara to her optimistic, trusting brother. Strong messages about love of family and friends; courage in doing the right thing; everybody's talents coming in handy. Also, an enormous amount of hand-wringing, especially on protagonist Kara's part, about harmful actions that she winds up doing anyway, notably sending many beings to their deaths against a villain, and about the time-honored quandary over whether your obligations to your loved ones trump your obligations to the world at large.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Twelve-year-old Kara is bright, kind, loving, principled, devoted to her family -- and completely out of her depth in a world where little is as it seems, it's impossible to know who to trust, and fatal betrayal is always a possibility. She doesn't always make the right choice and harms a friend who's giving her advice she doesn't want. Her younger brother, Taff, is good at fixing things and solving puzzles and strong in his belief that their new companion, a notoriously evil witch, has taken a turn for the good -- something that remains open to question.

Violence

The Whispering Trees begins with a violent death of a beloved companion and includes a lot of harrowing, scary scenes, from a fence that proves to be made of the reanimated bodies of deceased villagers to the killing of a being who springs to life as a sort of zombie clone of a child. There's also more personal violence, as when Kara injures a friendly bird when the bird tells her something she doesn't want to hear. Vividly described battles with monsters and evil magicians injure and kill many friendly beings. The murder of Kara and Taff's mother, who was killed for being a witch, hangs over the story.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters ingest magical potions, sometimes not of their own free will.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Whispering Trees, the second installment in the Thickety series, is often violent, dark, and scary, putting its 12-year-old protagonist and her young brother in constant danger, as well as sometimes in no-win ethical situations. It begins with a violent death of a beloved companion and includes a lot of harrowing, scary scenes, from a fence that proves to be made of the reanimated bodies of deceased villagers to the killing of a being who springs to life as a sort of zombie clone of a child. Vividly described battles with monsters and evil magicians injure and kill many friendly beings. There are strong messages of family, friendship, and loyalty, coupled with a complete inability to trust anyone except your sibling. Wicked characters may achieve some redemption, while seemingly kind ones may not be what they seem.

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What's the story?

At the end of Book 1, 12-year-old Kara and her younger brother, Taff, flee the villagers bent on killing them and run to the only place their pursuers won't follow: the Thickety, a dark, creepy, magic-infused place ruled by the Forest Demon, Sordyr, who seems to have a strange interest in them. As they try to get through THE WHISPERING TREES, escape their island, and reach the outside world, they fall into traps and must often battle evil forces in violent clashes. Adding to the danger: Their new traveling companion is a notorious witch who's killed many children and may or may not have changed her ways.

Is it any good?

Fans of The Thickety: A Path Begins will be happy to pick up the continuing adventures of Kara and Taff as they struggle to save themselves and do no harm in a magic-infused world. Vivid descriptions of spooky creatures, violent battles, and undead skeletal beings abound -- and some of them are former friends.

Set almost exclusively in the magical forest the kids are trapped in, the story is often oddly static. Having seen the harm that comes of magic in the first installment, Kara engages in endless ethical hand-wringing that's almost always a prelude to doing what she finds unacceptable and discovering how it's for the "greater good." As in this case: "And yet Kara couldn't stop thinking about all the creatures that might die in the process of carrying out her plan. Does it matter? Aren't human lives more important than the lives of animals? I must save Taff and Mary first if I have the power to do so!" Some readers will find this compelling; for others, it may get really old.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about magic and why stories about it are so popular. Why do you think it's often seen as an evil force? Do you agree?

  • Have you ever been in a situation where all the choices were bad? How did you deal with it?

  • Creepy stories have been around as long as humans have. Why do you think people find them so irresistible?

Book details

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