When I hear that William Ritter was writing a middle grade book I didn’t quite understand how it would work. As silly as it sounds, I’m still not quite sure how it works… But it does.
I don’t know where this is going to go in the long run but I am there. I am going to be reading this series where ever it takes me.
Let’s start with the synopsis:
Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.
Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.
Let’s start with the cons as that’s a small list, literally like one. It’s dark… I know William Ritter writes dark YA, Young Adult, but I didn’t think that this would be so dark as its a middle grade. When I was growing up the darkest children’s book/series was the Goosebumps.
As a child these were chilling. The storylines were simple enough and sometimes that’s all it needs. A simple idea to get stuck in the child’s mind. Oddmire was not chilling. It was dark, as in the way that some things are described. There is the talk of the Twins crawling over the bones of the victims of The Thing. You also have the way that The Thing talks to one of the twins.
Other than this… That is it. That is my list of cons. I think that the book is aimed at the older of the middle grade group, even to the age of the younger Young Adult. It is almost as if William Ritter is getting children ready for the world of YA before they even know it.
What can I say. This is a breath of fresh air as well as the vines that cause you to hold your breath. The characters, though are young, are very relatable as we have all been children. We all know the games that we played where your imagination would go beyond the believable. This is what reading is about.
Reading is finding your childhood again. It’s exploring that unknown part of the forest that no-one steps foot in or climbing to the tip of the mountain. And that is what is so easy about this book. There is the sense of unknown throughout the whole story as you don’t know which twin is the changeling, they both think they are, but all the way through right to the end, the only one who knows which twin the changeling is, is William Ritter.
I love the innocents of the language, the feelings. It’s simple. After all things are simple to a child. Don’t get me wrong, this book is not simple once you peel back the thorns, theoretically speaking.
For older readers that may be reading this, for them self or even to or with their child. Things will feel rather familiar. Through most of the first few chapters I kept getting the feeling that at some point Gandalf was going to come riding through the village on his cart, ready to sweep the twins off onto an adventure with the hobbits.
The way that the village is described reminds me of the shire and the Hobbits that live there. The people that live in Endsborough almost follow the same mentality as the Hobbits, keeping to themselves and not worrying about the world around them.
I just think that this has given the Middle Grade the boost it needed. This is a book I would be more that thrilled to recommend, and may already have. If your child wants some old folk tales without the Grimm’s view, this is a brilliant alternative to get them started in the fantasy genre. A series to keep an eye on.
I would like to thank Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with a digital copy of this book through NetGalley. This was a brilliant eye opener.
A book that is innocent as well as dark. As wise as it is thrilling. Middle Grade just got a whole lot more interesting.