Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Edge of Strange Hollow by Gabrielle K. Byrne.
Special thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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Goodreads: The Edge of Strange Hollow
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing
Publication Date: 11 May 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Welcome to Strange Hollow. Beware the Grimwood.
Poppy Sunshine isn’t like everyone else in Strange Hollow. She’s not afraid of the Grimwood, home to magical creatures like shape-shifters, fairies, witches, and even a three-headed dog.
Banned from the wood by her parents, Poppy longs to learn everything about it and imagines joining her mother and father as they hunt the forest’s cursed magical objects. So when her only family disappears on a routine expedition, she and her friends must break every rule to save them. But Poppy soon discovers that things in the Grimwood are rarely what they seem…
And the monsters who took her parents may not be monsters at all.
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Gabrielle Kirouac Byrne lives in the rainy wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where she writes fantasy for kids of all ages. Gabby studied opera in Philadelphia, medieval studies in New York, literature in Scotland, and marine biology in Washington. Stories are the common thread that tie all her interests together. When she’s not writing, you can find her fishing spineless zooplankton out of the Salish sea with her family. In Gabby’s debut MG fantasy, RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON, the princess of a frozen Queendom fights to free her mother from the clutches of treacherous dragons. Gorgeous world building, and lush prose will immerse readers in this coming-of-age adventure in which a fierce girl tackles insurmountable odds with wit, strength, and heart.
TL;DR: The Edge of Strange Hollow is an adventurous and mysterious middle-grade fantasy full of magical and mythical creatures and it’s packed with action from the get-go. It has quite the creepy haunted-magical-forest vibe which was quite unexpected and while it’s a little grimmer than most other MG fantasies I’ve read, it was also one of the things that made it stand out to me! The mystery was well-paced and it was easy to root for our characters to figure out whodunit. Overall, a fun and fantastical story that I have no doubt many young readers will love!
I immediately knew I wanted to read this the minute I saw the cover and after reading the book I can say that it’s perfectly illustrated because it captures the characters and the creepiness of the Grimwood to a tee! Strange Hollow and the Grimwood is set in the real world but is separated/blocked off from it by a magical fog. Most of the story is set within the Grimwood although we do spend a little bit of time in the village of Strange Hollow. The world-building, especially of the woods and the folktales behind it, was done really well and was familiar enough that it isn’t overwhelming. Again, this was a little creepier than I thought it’d be (that banshee!) but I do appreciate that Byrne doesn’t make all magical things in the forest ‘fluffy and good’—in fact, the majority of magical creatures and elements of the wood were dangerous and deadly! My favourite part of the book was the inclusion of such a wide range of magical and mythical creatures from various tales we’re familiar with. We got the ‘typical fantasy’ elves, fairies, werewolves and witches, but we also had selkies, valkyries, Cerberus, and a unique spin on Charon, the ferryman of the underworld! It was very cool and I think Byrne did a wonderful job in weaving it all together.
The story is told from Poppy’s perspective and on her journey she’s joined by Mack (her elfin best friend), Eta, Two, Brutus aka Dog (love the word play!), Nulla, (a pooka or shape-shifter). There’s a fairly large cast of characters that are introduced throughout the journey but it was easy to keep track of which part of the story they join in. Sadly, Poppy was a difficult character to connect with. While she’s fiercely determined to prove that she’s grown up enough to handle the grimwood and the dangerous work her parents do, she often comes across as quite petty/spiteful despite being well-intentioned overall. I appreciated her curiosity and thirst for knowledge and I do think she was realistic with flaws and all, but I found it tough to agree with many of the decisions she made (regardless of what promises she’d break and who she’d hurt in the process) for the majority of the book. She does experience some growth, albeit very reluctantly, but it sadly wasn’t enough to turn her character around for me. That said, what did balance it out for me was Mack. He was such a sweetheart of a character and I wanted to protect him at all costs—he was without a doubt my favourite! He was truly the most thoughtful, supportive and kind-hearted best friend to Poppy. I really appreciated that despite his unwavering support, he still stood up for himself (even if it hurt him to do so) and was able to put himself first when he needed to!
One element that I wish had been given more time to play out was the resolution. The build up of the mystery was well-paced, however, once we got to the climax things felt very rushed and the resolution to the conflict was too easy and overly simplistic, and before you know it the story was over. Despite that though, this was a wonderfully fantastical read that I have no doubt many young readers will enjoy!
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Ends 24 May 2021
Have you read The Edge of Strange Hollow or is it on your TBR?