From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7-During the summer of 1941, 14-year-old Charlotte, her older sister Meg, and her younger adopted brother, Will, as well as their two cousins, are staying with Mr. and Miss Warder, who run a failing guesthouse called Gull Walk. Charlotte soon notices strange things; Will seems to have a detachable shadow, and a talking cat keeps bothering her. Meanwhile, the ancient denizens of the nearby Darkwood (a wood from which magical creatures have not been driven out or killed) are hopeful that their Prince-Will-has finally arrived to save them from evil Mudwalkers, as they call humans. Will is both excited and frightened to discover his real identity, but protective Charlotte is determined to keep him from giving up his human life. Danger threatens the Darkwood in the form of the evil Fletchers, boarders at Gull Walk. An atmosphere of menace grows, but rather slowly, and when the villains finally attack, the scene is rather anticlimactic. The creatures of these woods-the Fox Fairy, the Midwife Tree, and others-are fascinating, but readers aren't told much about their histories or functions. There are more human characters than are necessary and, compared to the magical creatures, they all seem rather flat; even the Fletchers come across as banal and complaining. The most interesting part of the story, but one that is not developed to its greatest effect, is Will's emotional turmoil as he is torn between his noble destiny and his love of his human family, and Charlotte's dilemma as she realizes that keeping Will human means sacrificing the Darkwood. For a stronger story about a young person dealing with power and sacrifice, read Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising (McElderry, 1973).Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
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Gr. 6-12. Thesman's fantasy shifts from 1941 Puget Sound to the timeless forest of Darkworld, where fantastic creatures wait for the return of the "fair one," their lost leader. While Father is with the navy at Pearl Harbor and Mother battles tuberculosis in a sanatorium, the three Thacker children are spending the summer at Gull Walk, a summer resort near Puget Sound run by old family friends. Fourteen-year-old Charlotte, bright, curious, and bored, begins to notice odd things as the summer passes. Why do the hotel's owners refuse to let guests walk in the nearby forest? Why does Charlotte sometimes hear voices in the woods? Why are the nasty hotel guests, the Fletchers, and the hotel's teenage handyman, Jonah, so interested in Charlotte's delicate little brother? Who is the ominous Mr. Blade? And why does Noah call Charlotte a "between"? Along with all the tantalizing questions and mystery, Thesman works in a strong ecological theme, which she balances with a bright, spunky heroine and plenty of humor. A novel with solid appeal for girls. Jean FranklinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved