Sunday, 26 July 2015

In Darkling Wood


Book Title: In Darkling Wood
Author: Emma Carroll
Date Started: July 24th 2015
Date Completed: July 26th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Adventure
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Two Stars
Final Rating: Two stars

◆ Thanks to NetGalley for this eBook copy for review ◆

In Darkling Wood might be a nice story for younger readers starting to explore full-length novels, but it wasn't able to span over generations for me. The book went wrong when it made everything in the world seem simplified and silly: children might not see the world like adults but it doesn't mean everything has to seem less serious.

For a children's book the writing is good, excluding the odd bit of dialogue that stuck out as a bit strange. I think there could've been a little more magic around the setting considering it's an old wood, but especially at the beginning there was a sense of eeriness for both Alice and the reader.
The inclusion of the letters added a nice element of diversity in the chapters and created a nice span of time. I personally didn't really see the connection between Alice and the letters (from a very obvious character, though I won't say who) and they don't see to add anything to the story past another little tale going on in the background.

To get the positive out there first, I really liked how we don't really get to see the fairies. It created the idea that maybe it isn't actually real, and is just a child's way of dealing with a difficult situation. I was really enjoying trying to work this out until the point where we are shown the fairies; if they had been included for more than a page I would be less irritated by this issue, but the fact that their inclusion didn't even add anything to the story makes me mad because I had thought that it was actually a really clever technique suggesting there might be more to the story than a little girl running around in a forest.
This avoidance of depth occurred a lot in this book for me: even the darker subjects were really hard to take seriously because all the adults involved were reacting like you'd expect children to. Systems in hospitals and schools became tailored to keeping the protagonist happy which just isn't how it works in real life, and even things like the reaction of jealous school kids wasn't tough enough to be realistic. If you can't recreate the harder things in life then when good things happen they can't be appreciated as much because there isn't much to contrast it.
There were also frankly some parts that were just silly. What was the point of Arthur Conan Doyle spontaneously appearing at the family home in the letters? What did it add past being far fetched? If it had progressed the story or supported some of the plot then awesome, that's a great little reference for kids. But it didn't progress anything, and it didn't support the story - it just came across as frivolous, which came across as silly.
The big threat for the story is that there will be terrible consequences if the characters anger the fairies. This is really what drives the plot forward and creates a sense of purpose and urgency. But that purpose and urgency is entirely wasted if there are no consequences. You can't build a story up on the promise of danger and the refuse to go through with it - children's book or not. Happy endings are all well and good but they completely lose their affect if there isn't any achievement or an escape from peril.

I think the characters are the aspect that can really solidify a children's book for a range of ages as long as they're written in a relatable way. The big thing for In Darkling Wood was that even the adults acted childishly and out of character, and it just threw off the emersion of the book.
Alice was actually quite a good protagonist considering she did care about the people around her and actually had some intelligence that she used. I didn't feel like her being a Chime Child (someone born at a certain time to naturally be able to see fairies and spirits) was necessary at all: it didn't give anything to the story that Flo's advice hadn't already provided and just conformed to the 'chosen one' cliche.

While this isn't exactly a long book, a lot of the start feels very repetitive. The refusal to believe in fairies and magic is a cliche over literature anyway, but the amount of times the same denial is said again and again for the majority of the story makes it really disengaging and harder to investing the idea to save the fairies.

In Darkling Wood wasn't a particularly enjoyable read for me because of the inconsistencies throughout the whole thing, but I can see younger readers using this maybe as a pathway into reading full books. It's a good length and reading level for this, and there's the typical storyline of a child having to go to a new, unwelcoming place that turns out to be magical. There's also a mix of genres as the book can't quite decide if it's a family drama, a fantasy, mystery, historical or school story; there's a little bit of whatever a reader might be interested in.

Image Source -

No comments:

Post a Comment