Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Dark and Starless Forest - Sarah Hollowell


Title: A Dark and Starless Forest 
Author: Sarah Hollowell 
Format: Hardcover 
Rating: 5 stars 


When her siblings start to go missing, a girl must confront the dark thing that lives in the forest—and the growing darkness in herself—in this debut YA contemporary fantasy for fans of Wilder Girls.

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time.

Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices.

As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all.


Reader friends, let me tell you - this is one hell of a book.  I've been having trouble not telling everyone exactly what happened because one of the characters is JUST OVERWHELMING.  

I will try my best to keep this review spoiler free. 

The writing is good, it was good enough to help the story flow well and keep me hooked.  The story itself was fantastic - I found the plot worthy of being read. The sisters, their home, their world were all well written and well developed.  The big moments throughout the story were weaved into the smaller day to day things very well.  

I liked all the characters except Frank.  You'll see why if you read the book.  He has a motivation for why he does what he does, but the girls also have a motivation for why they do what they do - and it all evens out in the end.  Each of the girls was well written and well developed, and had their own personalities, their own things that made them who they are, their own reason for being, and their own powers that really drove home who they are as "alchemists."  (Franks word.  The girls later reclaim the word witch, and that really suits them.) 

The way this book shows that each girl has their own power is awesome - with the flowers, and the FLOWERS (You'll see.  Derry is amazing.) The flowers glow when each girl is tested on their abilities, and that helps Frank learn things, which weaves together everything else that happens in this book to Frank and to the girls. Each thing we see, from the flowers, to the hidden trail, to the deep dive into Franks private room, all weave more detail into this book and help us learn so much about what has happened and what will happen. 

The forest being written as this almost living breathing thing in the book was great.  The forest was its own character that felt so alive, and that really helped the girls in the end.  That added more dimension again because it was such an integral part of everything that happened in this story - without the forest and what it can do there is no story and no past for the characters. 

Basically, I found the whole book a little shocking, and wholly amazing. 

If you have not read this book yet and like horror fantasy, I highly recommend reading this book as soon as you can. And then coming back here and telling me what you thought about it.  

If you've already read it, drop some thoughts about it in the comments! 

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