Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆
At 3.23 a.m. the hospital call to say a heart’s been found.
When Alice’s brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother’s house. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden – but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn’t seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?
Alice’s life isn’t easy. Her brother is very sick and waiting for a life-saving heart-transplant. Her father rarely visits them, he is too busy with his new wife and daughter.
“And Dad? Does he know how Theo is?”
“I’ve spoken to him now, yes.”
“Is he coming to the hospital?”
“I don’t know. Apparently the baby’s teething so…” She trails off.
Excuses. More excuses.
When a heart finally becomes available she is shipped off to her paternal grandmother, who she’s never met. Her grandmother doesn’t talk to her son anymore and wants to be called by her name, not grandma. Alice is away from her brother, her mother and all of her friends.
The villagers don’t like her grandmother, because she wants to cut down Darkling Wood. The woods are the only place Alice like. They are dark and old, but they are also magical. And it’s where she meets Florence, a girl in a red cape and her only friend in the new place.
I open my moth to speak. I need to tell her what Nell said, that this is private property and she’s trespassing. But I can’t stop staring. She looks about my age, only smaller than me. And she’s wearing the weirdest outfit. Her boots make me think of ice skates without the blades, and she’s got on what looks like a petticoat. Over the top of it, her red coat reaches almost to the ground.
While her brother battles with the new transplant and Alice with her fear for him and the difficult relationship with her dad, her grandmother and the villagers, she also has to find a way to save the woods. For faeries live in those woods and if they get cut down, they will have their vengeance.
The story is really well written, I really felt for the characters. It’s sad and sweet. It is a story about faeries, but mostly, it is about relationships. About her grandmother, her father and her mother. It is about the secrets grown-ups try to keep from children and about Alice struggling with what is happening.
The faeries, I have to admit, I found really, really creepy. Sure, they’re shown as benevolent, trying only to protect their home. But… it is also made clear that they will have their vengeance if you cross them. And a lot of strange, really dangerous things have happened in those woods in the past.
A sweet book about magic, but mostly about family and relationships.