Friday, December 7, 2018

Where the Woods End - Charlotte Salter

Summary: In a forest filled with treacherous beasts, the thing to be most afraid of is closer than you think in this middle grade horror fantasy.

Kestrel, a young huntress, lives in a seemingly endless forest crawling with dangerous beasts. But the most dangerous beasts of all are the Grabbers—beings that are born when you are and stalk you throughout your life, waiting for the perfect moment to snatch and eat you. No one has ever defeated their Grabber once attacked, and those that die from accidents or other creatures are considered "lucky." Kestrel has been tasked by her mother, a powerful and controlling spell-caster, to hunt down the Grabbers in an effort to protect their village in the forest. Accompanied by Pippit, a hilariously bloodthirsty weasel, she hones her skills as she searches for a way out of the forest--and away from the judgmental villagers who despise her. But her own Grabber is creeping ever closer, and nothing in this forest is what it seems... including her mother's true motivations. (picture and summary from

My Review: I always like a book with a spooky premise and some cool monsters, and Where the Woods End had both.

Our main character was well-rounded, but also damaged, which added to her depth.  She has been raised in a harsh environment by a grandmother and a mother who put her in danger every day, teaching her ways to survive the forest.  It was hard to hear the things these guardians put her through which has turned Kestrel into a hardened knot of anger and ferocity, but at the same time has helped her learn to survive.  

The monsters in this book are truly frightening, particularly the creatures called Grabbers.  Every person has their own, and they come for you and only for you, building their bodies out of your stolen possessions, dead animals and the wood itself.  Once your Grabber decides to come for you, it's over, there is no chance of survival.  I loved that in a morbid, spooky way.  We have other creatures Kestrel comes across that are just as frightening, bone birds and face painters, cool concepts with frightening implications. 

After Kestrel, my particular favorite character was Pippit, her little weasel friend.  He spoke in clipped sentences, seemed entirely focused on blood and food, but I loved his deep loyalty to Kestrel.

I did feel like there was a lot of back and forth, and Kestrel always kept ending up back in the village every time she went out, so that got a little repetitive.  Also I felt some of the characters in the village felt a little one dimensional, like caricatures.  And this is probably just a personal opinion, but Salter used a bunch of similes which I found odd and unnecessary and at times it distracted me from the story.

Overall an intriguing and spooky tale, well worth the read.

My Rating: 3.5

For the sensitive reader: Kestrel was raised in an abusive home, and is also bullied by the villagers.  She also faces numerous monsters that are truly scary.

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