Publisher: Penguin Putnam
Release Date: June 12, 2014
Lucy Darrington's father is one of the world's most renowned supernatural expert (although disgraced). After running away from boarding school, Lucy arrives where her father should be only to discover he has gone missing. His last letter spoke of a great breakthrough, but as Lucy learns more about the area and a mysterious illness simply called 'The Rust' that is killing all the trees, she realizes that she may have to go rescue her father. As Lucy and her friend Pete make their way to Devil's Thumb, Lucy makes some new friends and some enemies as well who will stop at nothing to keep her from obtaining the last Dreamwood tree.
In essence, this story read like a magical folk tale, carefully sculpted to show both the beauty and danger that lives within nature. There are those who respect such things, like the Lupine Native Americans, who protect Devil's Thumb as well as fear it. Of course, there are others who shun the supernatural elements and insist on doing things their way. As is often the case in these kinds of stores, those characters do not fare so well.
Lucy herself reminded me a bit of myself, especially when I was younger. The need to be right even when you haven't fully assessed all the variables in a situation. Her refusal to give in to fear even when she is aware of what ghosts and spirits are capable of. She is confident, intelligent, and despite a propensity to be overly competitive, she is a girl who will get things done. Pete was a little less fleshed out for me, because I don't think I ever fully understood his motivation. In the beginning he is surly, in the middle he is surly, and in the end...you guessed it...surly. He complains about Lucy not trusting him or thinking him capable of taking care of himself, yet the truth is, Pete is really dealing with a situation that he knows very little about and really does need Lucy's expertise. On the other hand, Lucy is far too trusting and Pete, who is an expert on the bad guys is ignored in his efforts to show Lucy the error of her ways.
Beautifully descriptive with both a clear respect for nature, the setting itself is the real gem of the story. From the train ride through the forest, to Pentland, to Devil's Thumb. Each setting felt like a whole and yet separate. It is as if the story is taking place right on the cusp of something, that moment right before technology takes over, before people changed, when the last great spirits roamed the woods.
This is, as in most middle-grade books, a coming of age story. It is also about nature, never giving up, believing in others, respecting things that we don't understand, being a true friend, persevering, all with a great and terrible magic blended in. A wonderful historical fantasy, I think there is a very wide audience for this book.