Book review: In Darkling Wood, by Emma Carroll

Carroll, Emma. In Darkling Wood. Delacorte Press, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780399556012. 231 pages. Ages 10-14. P7Q8

In Darkling Wood is a cross-generational tale which intertwines family, grief, and English lore. It is told from the point of view of Alice, a middle-school-aged girl with a seriously ill younger brother and an estranged father. When her brother enters the hospital to receive a transplant, Alice is shuffled to her paternal grandmother’s rural cottage. Here, surrounded by Darkling Wood, an enchanted forest that her grandmother has threatened with destruction, Alice must discover the source of her family’s grief and save the Wood—her brother’s life may depend on it. The young girl’s account is supplemented by WW I era letters, written from a sister to a brother before and after he was killed in the War. These letters set the stage for the supernatural aspect of the story by referencing the Cottingley Fairies and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s investigations into the paranormal. The inclusion of paranormal themes can make this book subtly spooky at times. Illness, death, and their powerful affect on family relationships are principle threads in the narrative. Because In the Darkling Wood was written by British author Emma Carroll, readers will encounter some unfamiliar vocabulary associated with British English. This vocabulary is more quirky than challenging and further transports the reader to the English countryside.

Verdict: Young readers who appreciate fantasy or mysteries will enjoy In the Darkling Wood. Very sensitive readers may be triggered by certain themes in this book.

May 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

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