A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Willa of the Wood is a fast-paced, action/adventure fantasy by the author of the popular Serafina series, Robert Beatty. There's lots of fantasy and real-world violence with blood and pain mentioned but no gory descriptions; main characters frequently in peril; dark, scary settings including children starving in a warren-like prison where there's a bottomless pit children get thrown into; and a massive fire from which not everyone escapes. Important characters die, including a beloved pet. Sensitive kids may be upset by the "murder" of trees by loggers and homesteaders; overall there are strong themes about protecting and connecting with nature. Dystopian themes are explored through the iron-fisted ruler who demands unquestioning obedience and doles out harsh punishment while stamping out the old ways. Willa's a great role model for girls, and Nathaniel is a kind and open-minded father figure. Chewing tobacco's mentioned a few times, always in a negative context.
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What's the story?
WILLA OF THE WOOD is a member of the Faeran clan, an ancient people who've lived in the Great Smoky Mountains for longer than anyone can count. But as the world around them changes and their population dwindles, the Faeran are losing their connection to the old ways. Willa is one of the very few left with a magical, ancient connection to the woods, the mountains, and the wildlife. And now the new, godlike leader of the clan not only rules with an iron fist, but also is deliberately separating the Faeran from everything that connected them to the past. Out on a night raid, Willa has a close encounter with a human named Nathaniel, which sets in motion a chain of events that will change the Faeran, and the mountains, forever.
Is it any good?
This exciting, sometimes violent fantasy strikes a terrific balance between page-turning action and thoughtful, heartfelt emotion that will appeal to a broad audience. Willa of the Woods offers something for lovers of nature, animals, magical fantasy, dystopia, action, and adventure. Characters, especially Willa, are well developed, admirable, and relatable. Readers of the Serafina books will enjoy it, too. It's a lot less spooky, although evil, darkness, and danger have to be confronted. It's equally steeped in, and evocative of, the Great Smoky Mountains, and fosters a sense of adventure, wonder, awe, and even reverence for the natural world.
The pacing flags a bit in the middle, and some of the environmental messages seem a bit heavy-handed. It's best for big kids and up who are ready for frights, chills, direct but non-gory descriptions of violence, and even some heartbreak. The ending is satisfying while leaving room for more of Willa's adventures.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Willa of the Wood. Is it too much? Were there times you were really scared or upset? What did you do to feel better?
What do you like about Willa? What are her strengths and weaknesses?
What are some ways you can feel more connected to nature? Why is it so important to preserve and protect it?
- Author: Robert Beatty
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: July 10, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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