Cover Image: Darkwood

Darkwood

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Much of the fantasy genre is riddled with wicked and dark themes. Such is not the case with Darkwood by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch. 

Gretel and her brother Hansel are orphaned siblings being taken care of by their stepfather and stepmother. That sentence alone is a good clue as to where this story will take you. Gretel is a girl who is good at maths, but the Huntsmen believe that she is a witch. When one Huntsman comes to the village of Nearby, the quirky villagers delay him while Gretel forms her escape into the Darkwood. 

Gabby Hutchinson Crouch points toward the insidiousness of hate-based politics and the celebration of diversity. Sexism plays into the narrative as well when it is (quickly) revealed that it is Hansel with the powers. Like most fairy tales, Darkwood excels at delivering a moral. Not all who are different are bad. 

Humor abounds with deadpan delivery, often eliciting a snort of laughter while Gretel uncovers the truth about Darkwood. As it stands, Darkwood's more successful moments come with the villagers. A cast of quirky characters who bicker amongst themselves, only to rally when an outsider dares to step into their midst. 

It would have been better had Gretel spent more time among the magical creatures in the wood. A litany of mythical creatures are hinted at, while only a few make appearances. The ones we do meet, a talking spider who dons a hat, a witch who turns everything into gingerbread, and a boy who grows plants like beanstalks, are stuffed full of interest. 

Perhaps elongating the novel would have helped secure a more robust community amongst those who have found refuge in Darkwood. There is nothing within the book now that needs sacrificing. Taking the reader on a longer ride would be much appreciated, which is perhaps what Gabby Hutchinson Crouch is going to produce in the coming volumes.
Was this review helpful?
Very enjoyable with arch humour and amusing characters. Would definitely recommend to Terry Pratchett and Princess Bride fans.
Was this review helpful?
This was a very clever and witty book. So much fun to read. My favorite character by far was Trevor. Who knew a spider could be a master of disguises?

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book, which I voluntarily chose to review.
Was this review helpful?
This book wasn’t what I imagined at all. It’s a middle grade which I didn’t expect (my own fault, should have checked), don’t get me wrong I love reading middle grade, it just took me a while to adjust my expectations.

Once I got into this tale I was thoroughly absorbed. The quirky nature of this story is right up my alley. A bunch of fairy tale creatures have been driven from their homes and into Darkwood, home of the ‘beasties’.  

Characters
I can’t begin to explain how much I enjoyed the characters we come across in this story. You’ll recognize lots but they won’t be as you traditionally know them. This is almost the perfect transition book for the younger end of Middle Grade, as they will know the names and characters but are presented with a more complicated tale.

Setting
The settings in this book are so well described. I could really visualize the village and the people that live there. Darkwood is given the appropriate creepy feel, imagine all your nightmares about forests rolled into one. I loved the contrast between the two but actually at the heart of both they are very similar.

Final Thoughts
Overall, this is a great story, some humorous moments but also some tender, heart wrenching ones. Throw in some bloody moments for good measure and you have a story which I know a lot of children will absolutely love.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book. What I found was a heartwarming tale of communities coming together under the most extraordinary circumstances. I whole heartily recommend this read.

My thanks to the publishers for a copy of the book to review via netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this book and cannot wait for the next one.  I wasn’t surprised that it was written by one of the writers of Horrible Histories as it is hilariously witty and satirical.  In the village of Nearby live Hansel and Gretel, towns with their own unique abilities.  They live on the edge of the Darkwood, where they are told to never venture.   But when strange things start happening in the village the creatures of the Darkwood begin to come out.  
The book is written for middle-grade readers but it’s highly enjoyable for kids and adults alike.  It tackles some topical issues such as prejudice, humanity and the abuse of power.  It’s also very funny and entertaining.  Read it out loud to yourself or your kids.
Was this review helpful?
Shout out to NetGallery for providing me an eARC for an unbiased review of this book.

So, I almost DNF’d this book. I think it’s the writing style of the author that turned me off a bit, but it has a good number of things going for it. First off (and unbeknownst to me) this book is probably middle grade, if not YA, I can’t quite tell because it straddles that line. I am not a fan of either of those kinds of writing so it didn’t work for me.

The book itself is essentially a retelling of classic fairy tales and fables mixed together in a somewhat novel way. The trope of magic being outlawed has always been a familiar and friendly one and I believe Crouch spins it in a way that works for this book.

This review is relatively short because I didn’t get much enjoyment out of this book. It’s definitely not within my wheelhouse and it truthfully is my mistake for not doing a bit more research into the kind of reader this book was made for. To me, 2/5.
Was this review helpful?
"'Wuh,' says the boy, 'is for... witch.' He looks at the second piece of chalked slate. 'The... wicked... witch... lives... in... the... wood,' he reads."
FAIRYTALES + SATIRE = YESSS!

I loved this book, more than loved this book. This is fun, well written, and an absolute delight to read. Darkwood is a fairytale retelling involving a mishmash of tales you may be familiar with (Hansel & Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, etc.) interwoven with heaps of glorious satire; in the beginning I was skeptical until the realization that this is a satire hit me, and then I could not stop grinning and laughing out loud throughout the entire read, to the point where I was making those around me uncomfortable (sorry not sorry fam!).

It's like if Monty Python and Disenchantment had a baby, and I saw mention in the afterword that the author was inspired by Shrek which is amazing. The knight on the cover does remind one an awful lot of the black knight from The Holy Grail, don't you think?

I also want to point out how much I love how this is as much as a fairytale story as it is a witch story, with a nod towards the witch hunts. The symbolism was not lost on me, and I appreciate the heck out of it. A witch with an army of animal familiars? YES. A witch who can magically grow plants? YESSS. A witch that can turn anything she touches into cake? HECKIN YES. Plus there's an adorable talking spider with a whole wardrobe of amazing outfits, I can't even. We also have ghosts, mythical creatures, and alleged gay unicorns up in here, like, I am just in heaven.

I'm impressed that this is a middle grade book although I believe this is diverse enough to not simply be tacked down as MG, as the author does really well with including themes relating to authoritarianism and sexism (girls better not do well with their maths or have brains in their heads, or there be witches afoot) in a way that's surprisingly deep while simultaneously remaining rather aloof in its self-aware humor; the prose is marvelous in effectively diving into the nitty-gritty while still being an absolute delight to read.

Something I really enjoyed is how this story does really well with addressing the act of 'othering' those who are different, who society would rather alienate out of their own discomfort. I definitely recommend Darkwood to those who enjoy a good satire with a deep message, because this book is 100% worth the experience. Looking so forward to the next book in the series, Such Big Teeth!

The quotes provided were taken from an eARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Thank you to Farrago for providing me with this eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Was this review helpful?
[The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Unfortunately I had to DNF this book. I don't even know why... Maybe it was the writing style?
Was this review helpful?
This was absolutely wonderful! Fairy tale fantasy that should appeal to everyone from middle grade up, as long as they enjoy snark, great female characters, and pitch-perfect skewering of bigotry - I definitely wouldn't pigeonhole this as a children's or adults' book, as there's too much to love for all ages. The characters are wonderful, both those you know from classic fairy tales, and those that are new - my favourites were smart, no-nonsense Gretel, kickass Snow, and Trevor the talking spider. It's laugh-out-loud funny in places, but also has a lot of very intelligent things to say, and says them without ever being patronising or try-hard. It's a new favourite for me, and I'll be recommending it to all my friends while I wait for the next book!
Was this review helpful?
This book was a treat! I received my copy as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book was a fun conglomeration of multiple fairytales, but with a dark twist. There were times that I felt like I was reading a children’s story and happily reliving my childhood, while there were others where the darkness felt like a crime novel. This combination in the subtle hints at so many fairytales we know well made the book quite enjoyable. My only regret is not brushing up on my fairytales before beginning. I am looking forward to the sequel!
Was this review helpful?
One of my favourite tropes in fantasy is the banned/outlawed magic trope, so as soon as I came across this Middle Grade novel on NetGalley, which not only includes that trope but also follows a girl with an interest in STEM, I knew I wanted to give it a try.

Darkwood is the first book in a new fantasy MG series following Gretel Mudd, who ends up chased away from her home of Nearby Village and into the Darkwood after the Huntsmen wrongly accuse her of witchcraft. In Darkwood she falls in with a band of real witches – and a talking spider called Trevor – who, like her, have been forced from their homes, and together they try to put a stop to the Huntsmen’s tyranny.

I had a feeling this book would be funny given that it’s written by one of the writers of the Horrible Histories series, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as funny as it is. I laughed out loud several times while reading this book, and what I loved most was how this isn’t a book that patronises its readers; there are jokes for children and adults alike in here and, outside of the humour, actions have real consequences in this book.

Darkwood is brimming with likeable characters. Gretel so easily could have been one of those irritatingly precocious children who doesn’t feel real, but she’s written with such warmth and a brilliant sense of humour and Hutchinson Crouch isn’t afraid to let her make mistakes that she must learn from. In particular, while Gretel has been forced to hide how clever she is and her particular talent for science and maths because she’s a girl, she herself has been perpetuating harmful stereotypes about the creatures of the Darkwood. I think this book will be an eye-opener for a lot of younger readers without feeling gimmicky or preachy.

Darkwood also includes a lot of fairy tale characters that those of us who grew up with the Grimms’ Fairy Tales will be familiar with, but they’re not quite the characters we know – this book is more Shrek than Disney – and they feel so fresh and original despite being some of the oldest characters in western literature. I’m not going to mention who they are because I think part of the fun is meeting them as Gretel meets them, but I loved her little gang of misfits and I loved this book. I can’t wait for the next one!
Was this review helpful?
This book was truly spectacular – the writing style and humour very much reminded me of Terry Pratchett, using familiar themes and spinning them in unexpected and hilarious directions. Crouch touches on social issues like fake news, gender roles and talking spiders in fun and entertaining ways.

This story features some of the most famous characters in fairy tales and has them all interacting with each other, turning their stories on their heads. There are brilliant hints about what we can expect in the next part of the story too, which I’m very excited about!

The book is listed as a middle grade title but this is more than suitable for adults too – I would recommend this for all fantasy readers who enjoy a giggle!


*I received an ARC of this title via Netgalley. All opinions are my own*
Was this review helpful?
Darkwood features smart, funny dialogue and a brilliant turn on your typical fairy tale characters. I enjoyed reading this one and it was a quick read given the intended audience.
Was this review helpful?
This book was so entertaining! I'm not quite sure how to classify it, fairy tale inspired? Whatever it is, it's creative, fun, and I enjoyed every minute reading this. The plot twist wasn't quite what I expected which was also great. I am so excited for the next installment in this series!
Was this review helpful?
A delightful new mashup of old familiar fairy tale characters and themes, with loads of originality and memorable characters. (I particularly adore the cranky Snow with all her axes and armour! And the secret boy witch Hansel with his unfathomable powers.) The characters have depth and can certainly sustain a series of adventures. Themes deftly and humorously tackled head on in this book: gender stereotypes, racism (underlined as species-ism), authoritarian governments, political asylum, to name a few.  There is an abundance of juicy ideas to relate to real life and discuss with young readers delightfully delivered. Definitely looking forward to the next instalment and very curious to know which contemporary themes Gabby will be tackling next! I think this may well turn into one of my all time favourites.
Was this review helpful?
A dark, sarcastic, and freaking hilarious retelling of Hansel and Gretel, with a few other fairy tales thrown in.
Gretel bites off a whole lot more than she can chew when she escapes into the Darkwood and accidentally joins a gang of witches.  But she can handle it, she can do maths.
It reminds me a bit of Discworld and it was nice to see that the author did get inspiration from that among other sarcastic magical stories.
ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The story is a fun re-telling of a mixture of fairy tales and fables. Witty and colorful, the story of Hansel and Gretel comes to life in new ways. Memorable characters, jaunty plot, impish humor, and great dialogue make the pages fly by. Eager to see where this series goes.
Was this review helpful?
Darkwood is a book aimed at ‘middle grade’ or YA readers. It is a fairytale with a twist. There are ogres, huntsmen, magic and of course witches all of whom come together is a enjoyable and entertaining adventure  story. This is very much in the vein of Pratchett or Maxwell, and equally as much fun. 
My 11 year old devoured it and I enjoyed it too, I would recommend it to adult readers as well. 
This is the start of a series and I cannot wait for the book.
Was this review helpful?
Any fairytale retelling is a great read in my opinion and it is a sure trope to get me to buy it.
Loved this one which had a reminiscent feel of the Brother Grimm and Angela Carter in certain ways. 

Absolutely had me hooked. 

Will be on the lookout for more from this author
Was this review helpful?
Hansel & Gretel Meet Snow White . . . and Jack in the Beanstalk and Unicorns and Centaurs and Ogres and other magical and mythical beings.  Most fairy tales seem to exist in monarchies, but the King has been overthrown and the Princess has fled to the forest.  Dystopia is ruled by masked creatures who, thinking magic is the venue of women, have restricted the education of girls (no maths allowed!) and condemn witches to death--or the forest.  Written with a great deal of snarky humor, with interesting twists on the stories from our childhoods.
Was this review helpful?