The author of the Serafina series returns! Robert Beatty's Willa of the Wood is fierce, fantastical, and captivating.
Here is the publisher's summary:
Move without a sound. Steal without a trace.
To Willa, a young night-spirit, humans are the murderers of trees. She's been taught to despise them and steal from them. She's her clan's best thief, creeping into the log cabins of the day-folk under cover of darkness and taking what they won't miss. It's dangerous work, but Willa will do anything to win the approval of the padaran, the charismatic leader of the Faeran people.
When Willa's curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in the day-folk world, she calls upon the old powers of her beloved grandmother, and the unbreakable bonds of her forest allies, to survive. Only then does she begin to discover the shocking truth: that not all of her human enemies are the same, and that the foundations of her own Faeran society are crumbling. What do you do when you realize that the society you were born and raised in is rife with evil? Do you raise your voice? Do you stand up against it?
As forces of unfathomable destruction attack her forest home, Willa must decide who she truly is--facing deadly force with warm compassion, sinister corruption with trusted alliance, and finding a home for her longing heart.
Sound awesome? It is. Willa gets more enthralling and mysterious the deeper the reader ventures into the story.
The book is lengthy, but middle readers will remain glued to Willa's story. Her adventure is full of high energy bursts with breaks just short enough for readers to gather themselves before Beatty throws us into even more vine-like twists and turns.
The cast of characters is diverse, ranging from quaint to flashy to threatening to kind. Willa herself is a brilliant mixture of feistiness and compassion, fiercely gentle towards all living things she encounters. (Not to mention how super-awesome her magic is.)
Her companions include Luthien, the female head of the wolves, who aids Willa through a life-threatening chase, and Nathaniel, a homesteader man, who takes Willa under his wing.
Willa is also set during an interesting historical moment - the construction of the Great Smoky Mountain railroad in the early 1900s. Willa's clan is at odds with several other groups: the homesteaders, the Cherokee, and the railroad workers.
Beatty is right on point when it comes to getting middle readers interested not only in the magic of reading, but also in American and regional history. (You can get me interested in anything historical if you add in forest spirits.)
Willa will make page-turners of middle readers and parents, alike.