“Darkwood” by M. E. Breen

I have been drawn to this book for the better part of a year. That saying about not judging books by their covers? Yeah, forget it …

In my defense, though, here’s the cover:

When I checked it out, the librarian told me she wanted to know what I thought of it, since I’d be the first one to do so.

The story is a somewhat-familiar one, about an orphan girl, Annie, who finds out that her aunt and uncle, who have had custody of her since she was two, have dire plans for her. Sure enough, she has abilities beyond the norm, and she has a destiny far greater than she’d ever imagined. This part, I know, is familiar young adult fare.

The land in which she lives is plagued with creatures called kinderstalk, which reportedly prey on anyone who ventures out into the dark. Darkness is rather a running theme in the book. The land has no moon, and Annie’s first special ability is seeing in the dark.

The storytelling, though, is clever. Revelations come gradually, for the most part, and there is a lot of mystery left running through the book.

There were parts, though, that left me hanging. Annie first flees her guardians, then winds up a slave anyway. She then escapes to try to rescue her friend, and then takes more than a month (and many digressions) to get around to doing so. Even when she has the opportunity, other matters keep getting in her way.

I found that part of the story to be a bit unconvincing. Perhaps the story should have been a bit longer, or perhaps had some plot points removed. In any case, that part left me cold.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the book. It was a compelling read, and absorbed me quickly enough. There are more than a few unresolved plot points, quite possibly those are intended for a sequel. I hope so, because one character’s fate is left hanging and had been an important part of the early story. Frankly, I don’t get the part with the cats. Even once I knew how they were involved … well, … how do the wolves send cats as servants? I don’t get it.

Annie is a smart, capable heroine, which I think is worthy of note.

According to the author’s bio, this is M. E. Breen’s first novel. I hope to see more. The story involves fighting, including a major battle as part of a coup attempt. However, the action isn’t overly violent, and the real story that we’re following doesn’t center around the battle. That was well done, as well.

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