Review: Darkwoods


Author: Marta Stahlfeld

“A Fight for Freedom that Draws All Warriors.”

Published: April 2011

Book Publishers Network

Source: Book provided to me


Synopsis: The death of the foxes’ ruling oracle, Scythe, bodes ill for the Wraith Mice around Darkwoods and their allies near and far. With the change in leadership, all sides know their uncertain relationship with the foxes will, too soon, erupt into a vicious war.

Possessing the ability to melt into the darkness and renowned in warfare, the Wraith Mice rally the squirrel tribes, Ranger Mice, and others to defend their territory – and their very lives. A young one among them, Princess Zuryzel understands the gravity of the situation and rises fearlessly to the challenges of the ruthless invaders. Possessing the traits of a natural leader and wise beyond her years, Zuryzel knows she must follow the difficult path before her. But can she overcome the challenges in time to defeat the hated foxes?

Stahlfeld skillfully weaves romance, intrigue and intense action into this epic tale, the first in a continuing saga, of the creatures of Darkwoods and beyond. With a nod to life as it truly is, Stahlfeld presents characters of complexity – each with weaknesses as well as strengths – and a story of constantly shifting “certainties”.

More than a battle of good and evil, Darkwoods challenges the reader to discover the truth. Who can be trusted? Are all foxes, indeed, dastardly creatures? Who is the spy within the Wraith Mice’s midst? And, ultimately, can good ever win?

My thoughts: From the synopsis alone, you can tell this story had a lot of complexity going on. A large number of characters played into differing roles throughout the story, each defending their beliefs and fighting for what they felt was right.

With the Oracle Scythe passing away at the beginning of the story, we learn that a battle of sides will soon be erupting among the creatures. The foxes are known for being evil and untrustworthy, battling to take away whatever they can from the others and hopefully destroying as many creatures as they can while they’re at it.

The Wraith Mice are the lead characters on the side fighting for the good of what they feel is right. They stand strong in their religious beliefs and use the Bear King as their guide to find strength in taking down the enemies. The Bear King helps to bring them peace and understanding, even when times seem to get extremely tough for the Wraith Mice and their allies.

This story brought back a lot of memories from my creative writing classes that I took throughout school. Marta has created a whole new world, where animals get to be the stars, showing us how they too have very similar problems and battles as we do in this world. I loved the sense of imagination that went into creating this story. It’s challenging enough to create tons of characters and battle them out in our modern world, but to add a whole new element of the characters not even being human and the world not being familiar to everyday life shows that she put a lot of work into this story.

Deciding what my review “score” should be has been very challenging for me so far with this series. I have been struggling to keep up with the “who is who” while reading the book with so many characters being involved. I’m not used to reading a book with 25+ characters! With this issue, it left me struggling to get myself as emotionally involved as I would have hoped, I find myself needing that feeling of really caring about what happens to the characters in order to give the book a high review sometimes.

BUT, at the same time – the fact that Marta was 17 years old when she wrote the story has me realizing that it really is a tremendous story for someone her age. To have the skills to create a world like this, I can only imagine how great her stories could be once she gets her English degree from college (referring to the “About the Author” info that follows next). So, clearly, I’m a bit torn. In the end, I’ve decided my rating should reflect more on her abilities at someone her age, so I’m sticking with a solid ★★★★ I’ll be reading Pasadagavra, book 2 in the series, sometime later this month, so I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.

 About Marta Stahlfeld: She is currently attending her freshman year at Wisconsin Lutheran College. She is majoring in English literature with the goal of becoming a teacher as well as a novelist. The Seattle native has a particular interest in World War II, devouring both books and movies regarding that era. In fact, her Darkwoods’ Ranger Mice characters were inspired by the U.S. Army Rangers who scaled Pointe du Hoc on D-Day. Marta began writing Darkwoods at age twelve, rewrote it numerous times, and through it all has known that her future lies in a career in writing. Darkwoods is the first in the new series by the same name, and Marta has just published the second book in the series, Pasadagavra, and is working on Book III, Graystone. Learn more about her and the Darkwoods Series on the website. You can also keep up with the latest about her books by following on Twitter or Facebook.

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