A Dark And Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

*Spoiler free*

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Thank you so much to HMH Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss for the e-ARC1

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time. Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices. As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all.

I’ve followed this author online for awhile before her book deal was even announced, so I was siked when it finally did! I’m of course a sucker for creepy forest stories, and this one features a fat girl main character, who must look out for her siblings as they are taken into the woods. She must also grapple with the darkness inside her as well. It sounded incredibly intriguing, and I couldn’t wait to read it! Trigger warnings: emotional and physical abuse, anxiety, depression

Holy HECK, I love this book. It reads like a rush of water, a lily resting in a puddle, and there’s this pain and anger that lurks beneath the surface, that blooms from thorns beneath the skin and secrets hidden behind the nice. It’s so good I kind of want to scream.

I’m going to start with the writing, because this book is gorgeously, gorgeously written. It feels fresh, and light, kind of like a breeze lifting clothing off the skin. At the same time, it doesn’t shy away from the horrors that this book holds. There is a terror to it, a horrifying part, and it feels like a gut punch. Little lines were slipped in there that had the breath stalling my chest. Hollowell knows how to place lines just so to get the maximum affect. Truly, this book was written so incredibly well.

The familial aspect of this book was also something that I completely fell in love with. There is such a strong sisterhood between Derry and her siblings. There are nine sisters in all, including Derry. It’s a lot of characters to introduce all at once, but I found myself completely in love with all of them. They are all so different, in their powers and just who they are as people. But all of them are able to fit into the story. They all handle themselves differently, but they all love each other so, so much. That love, that bond that they have was something spectacular.

I really, really loved Derry. She is a fat, anxious girl who can do plant based magic. She was freaking awesome. It was so cool to see a fat character be badass and awesome. Her fatness wasn’t the center of the story, and I thought that was really cool.

The forest, and the darkness this book holds, was also something that I thought was done really, really well. It’s the kind of thing that digs, deep into the skin, into the marrow of the bones. It feels like a whirlwind of emotion. The darkness of the outside, and the darkness of the inside. The horrors that take place in both. The beauty that can be found in certain darkness, but how is twisted to be seen that way? What is twisted and what is not? It’s horrifying, and terrifying.

Speaking of the forest, that was also something that I loved. I loved the hidden beauty in it, and I loved how there always seemed to be layers to it. It’s a mystery that has a lot of turns, and I loved exploring all of them, from the creepy girls to the lightning bugs to the creatures.

I also adored the magic! Every person has their own unique type from plants to healing. Magic is just super cool on its own, but I loved how it intertwined with the plot of this book and how it was used in the book. Yes, I am being vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

There were also moments in this book that were absolutely gut wrenching. I wanted to sob during multiple of them. This book knows how to pack a punch and it does that well. Just, so, so good.

This book also features Black, Mexican American, hard of hearing, trans, and non-binary characters! I can only comment on the trans and nonbinary rep, which I liked, but I am unable to comment on the rest other than that they were there.

Overall, this book stunned and floored me. It is brilliantly good, holding a darkness and a magic to it, family and the love that comes from that, the anger and the pain that blooms, and the forest. It’s such a good book, and I love it so, so much.

A Dark And Starless Forest comes out September 14, 2021! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!

One thought on “A Dark And Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

  1. I’ve had my eye on this book for a little while now, and I’m so glad to hear it lives up to expectations! I’m so happy you enjoyed it and can’t wait to read it for myself!


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