All her life, Marni had felt close to the woods and despite her Gramps's warnings she had entered them every day and returned to him. The last time someone returned from the woods, it was her mother, carrying a baby which was not altogether human. The woods are now closing in, seeking out its' lost child. Life for Marni as a simple flower girl is about to get a lot more complex. The secrets she had forgotten and the world she has been hidden from for so long are about to immerse her once again.
With its host of princesses, courts and magical creatures, a complicated plot and a lot of back-story, this has got to be one of the best thought-through fair-tales I've ever read. The magical elements tie in really beautifully to Marni's own story, and how Marni changes and grows throughout the book. Seeing the character arc clearly is a big deal in my book, so it was great to see Marni being true to herself and to see Edgar's slight arc happening as well.
What is truly a marvel is that although the book is short, there are numerous characters and many of them are well developed, for example, Edgar, Gramps, Annell, the Dragon, the King and the Queen. Marni is clearly a strong-willed and vibrant girl, but underneath all that her two identities are warring and her attachments in both worlds cause her considerable turmoil. It was nice to see how she dealt with this, is what could be said as a very practical approach. Although it is obvious that Marni is not one of us, we feel respect for her and understand the way she thinks, so she's a protagonist you can empathise with despite her otherness.
Plot-wise, the first part was slightly difficult to get in to. Maybe it was Marni's style of speech, or maybe it was that the blurb had told me so much I didn't feel the need for the back-ground, I'm not sure. As sophisticated as the story was, I found that the pacing wasn't as good as it could have been. The book is split into three parts; part number one leads up to the cataylstic event, part 2 rushes on, building momentum all the way to part 3, where unfortunately the pace stops dead.
Although this then leads to huge revelations integral to the complexity of the plot, as well as an ending which will leave readers quite satisfied, for me the main part of the third section did not hold enough suspense or purpose. The contented, languorous days described in this part translate directly to the reader, so instead of finishing explosively, this book simply let's out a sigh of happiness at its perfect circular structure. That is another point altogether; nothing much actually ends up changing, everything seems to be a case of diverting a disaster and then happily ever after.
I would have liked to see more of a crescendo and uprising, even if it meant that main characters would die or events would be altered drastically. Maybe I've read too many dystopias, but would a face-off with the King, or the dragon, or both, be too much to ask?
Although this is a beautifully written book, and a really thought-provoking story complete with a few surprises, it didn't entirely grab me by the throat. The book is enjoyable, but possibly not for people with short attention spans, so I am afraid that the lack of pace brings my rating right down to a 6 out of 10.
This book was kindly gifted for review by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt