Willa of the Wood
Published on July 10, 2018
About Willa of the Wood
Move without a sound. Steal without a trace.
Willa, a young night-spirit, is her clan’s best thief. She creeps into the cabins of the day-folk under cover of darkness and takes what they won’t miss. It’s dangerous work–the day-folk kill whatever they don’t understand–but Willa will do anything to win the approval of the padaran, the charismatic leader of the Faeran people.
When Willa’s curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in the day-folk world, she calls upon the old powers of her beloved grandmother, and the unbreakable bonds of her forest allies, to escape. Only then does she begin to discover the shocking truth: that not all of her day-folk enemies are the same, and that the foundations of her own Faeran society are crumbling. What do you do when you realize that the society you were born and raised in is rife with evil? Do you raise your voice? Do you stand up against it?
As forces of unfathomable destruction encroach on her forest home, Willa must decide who she truly is, facing deadly force with warmest compassion, sinister corruption with trusted alliance, and finding a home for her longing heart.
Willa of the Wood is the first book by Robert Beatty that I’ve read, though I think I own two of his other books. Judging from the writing style, I really want to read more. I liked the way the scenery seemed to come alive and the deep emotions Willa feels through the story—her longing for companions and her internal wrestling over the wrongness of what her tribe has asked her to do.
One of the most powerful characters is Willa’s grandmother. Even though she can’t walk, she has this powerful presence and a fierce love for Willa and the goodness of the old Faeran ways. It’s this love and wisdom that Willa carries which gets pitted against the fears of her people, and Willa has to decide which way is right—being governed by that fear and allowing it to rule her actions, or daring to love not only her tribe members, but those very different from her, too.
I loved the theme of family and adoption in the story, too. Willa feels like an outsider among her Faeran tribe members, and she desperately wants to have meaningful, lasting connections with others. Her journey to find a community where she belongs totally resonated with me.
The story as a whole is a bit dark, to be honest. I’d say it’s probably better suited to older elementary school readers and middle school readers might also enjoy it, too, even though the writing style and characters’ ages feel geared a little more toward the eight to twelve range but definitely worth a read.
Willa’s appearance changes depending on her surroundings as a sort of camouflage. She befriends a Cherokee boy and a white man.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Willa and her people are night-spirits and have magic that comes from life (plants and animals). Sometimes the magic protects or heals, and other times it causes harm, even death.
Willa and her peers are tasked with stealing from local humans. A man shoots Willa while she’s prowling through his house. A couple scenes show children kept in cages. Willa learns they’ve been starved, and in some instances, tortured or allowed to die. Willa uses magic to help allies and stop enemies. Sometimes the magic appears like black worms or roots attacking people. The imagery tends toward dark rather than gory.