The Secrets of the Woods: Book 1
by Sara Beth Harper

"Michael gazed down at the object in his hands. In that round, smooth heaviness was the root of all their problems! Why had it and all its trouble needed to fall in their hands?"

Five children possess a magical relic and a promise to a dying boy. Armed with these secrets, they set out on a quest for answers and to find the mystical Camelot. As they begin their adventure, everything changes. Survival is different here. They are pursued by orcs, menacing dogs, and goblins. They experience nightmares and encounter mysterious creatures, wizards, and witches. The woods become a treacherous and alien world for them, vastly different from the familiar streets in which they once lived and endured. They must rely on their street smarts and each other to battle these outside forces determined to stop them. And this is only the beginning of the many challenges that test their individual strengths and power of their collective unity.

Harper’s novel is complete with fantasy, realistic characters, and supernatural elements that marks the arrival of a young adult writer. One will easily call to mind C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or even J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series when reading Harper’s debut. It is the first of what promises to be a series of continuing adventures and self-discovery for these five children. The unusually long prologue sets up nicely the action of the story, much of which primarily takes place in the woods (hence the novel’s title). Another unusual touch is the forest imagery peppered throughout the novel, a dreamy visual for the reader of the indeterminate landscape in which the children must survive. The blend of familiar legends with the new world Harper creates gives us a fresh perspective in the genre. Fans young and old of fantasy novels will enjoy this fast-paced read.

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