Darkwood – Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

Release date: 13 June 2019
Goodreads link
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Rating4 stars

Darkwood (The Darkwood Series #1) blurb:

Magic is forbidden in Myrsina, along with various other abominations, such as girls doing maths. This is bad news for Gretel Mudd, who doesn’t perform magic, but does know a lot of maths. When the sinister masked Huntsmen accuse Gretel of witchcraft, she is forced to flee into the neighbouring Darkwood, where witches and monsters dwell.

There, she happens upon Buttercup, a witch who can’t help turning things into gingerbread, Jack Trott, who can make plants grow at will, the White Knight with her band of dwarves and a talking spider called Trevor. These aren’t the terrifying villains she’s been warned about all her life. They’re actually quite nice. Well… most of them.

With the Huntsmen on the warpath, Gretel must act fast to save both the Darkwood and her home village, while unravelling the rhetoric and lies that have demonised magical beings for far too long.

I keep seeing this listed as a ‘middle grade’ book, and while it might be, it definitely shouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it who is interested in a slightly twisted version of a fairytale mashup.

The plot follows the story of Gretel, who is probably a genius, and her twin brother Hansel, who isn’t a genius but has other excellent qualities. Gretel is forced to leave her home of the village Nearby, to go live in the Darkwood, which is filled with horrible monsters and witches. Gretel is taken in by a group of witches, including Jack (sometimes with beanstalk), the White Knight (and her seven dwarves), and Buttercup (who basically just made me want baked goods the entire time I was reading this). Oh, and Trevor, a talking spider. In exchange for Gretel’s help defending the Darkwood from the Huntsmen they agree to protect Nearby.

But the Huntsmen have a secret weapon – one that the White Knight wants desperately to get her hands on. For reasons that she won’t share.

The characters were this sort of motley crew of loveable muffins who I basically wanted to hug and protect. They each had their share of hardships, but they still figured out how to come together as a team, even when everything seemed lost.

The writing style is probably the one thing that I would say was so different from a lot of other fantasy novels. It’s got this very tongue-in-cheek humorous way of saying things, that I just loved. The sarcasm in this is just goals.

‘Oh for crying out loud,’ cried the White Knight, out loud.

The main things that I really liked this book is that it turns a few fairytale stigmas on their heads – such as witches can only be girls. In fact, I really liked how feminism was explored in this book as a theme. The book also discusses the stigma of propaganda and how this can hurt innocent people, why standing up for what you believe in is powerful, and how you should work with what makes you unique (as a good thing), rather than seeing the negative – every cloud has a silver lining, so the saying goes.

There’s no confirmation of a second book (that I can tell), but the ending leaves it wide open. I’m actually looking forward to see what the author will do with another instalment.


I received an early copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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