About the Book
Eleven-year-old Casey is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible, but when he scales a colossal oak, he discovers a fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.
Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong.
Keeping his identity hidden–while struggling to prove he fits–is hard enough, but Butcher Beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.
A fast-paced middle grade fantasy/adventure book with all the monsters kids could ever hope for.
About the Author
AJ Vanderhorst has had many jobs, including journalist, paramedic, escape artist, and baby whisperer. One time in fifth grade, he built a traffic-stopping fort in a huge oak tree, using only branches and imagination, and slept there for a week.
Now he and his wife live in a woodsy house with their proteges and a ridiculous number of pets, including a turtle with a taste for human toes. This makes AJ an expert on wild, dangerous things—invisibility spells, butcher beasts, hungry kids, you get the idea.
He is the only author in the world who enjoys pickup basketball and enormous bonfires, preferably not at the same time. He and his family have drawn up several blueprints for their future tree castle. Visit AJ online at ajvanderhorst.com.
(Bio via Goodreads)
What I Thought
This was a very interesting book, almost like a cross between The Magic Faraway Tree and Bridge to Terabithia (but without the same level of heartbreak as the latter!).
The tone it sets is surreal and you aren’t always sure if we are in a world of imagination or magic. The Monsters are creepy but the threat level is right for the intended audience.
There was one occasion I wasn’t quite sure if the POV slipped but otherwise we remain along on this wild ride with Casey.
The characters are Alice in Wonderlandesque in their oddity and this would make an amazing cartoon film. I loved the relationship between Casey and his younger sister Gloria and it’s great to see Gloria with some agency too.
The book has a satisfying ending but is open for a sequel and – yay for me – it’s already out. A school is going to be the setting so right up my book nook. We got glimpses of it in this book and I’m certain with AJ Vanderhorst we’ll be in for another thrilling adventure.
This reminds me of the magic of watching The Neverending Story as a child and I liked the slightly unique take on the chosen one trope.
Thanks to Dave at The Write Reads and the author for an e-copy of the book for the purposes of this honest review – just off to buy book 2.