Hello, sweet peas!
I promise, this is the last blogtour for this month. 😂 Still, I’m happy to be part of another blogtour with the WriteReads gang.
Thank you to the author for the free arc in exchange for an honest review.
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.
When I got the email from Dave that asked if I wanted to be part of this blogtour, I was immediately fascinated. I loved the cover and the premise of this book. I mean, a boy that was invisible to pretty much everybody else? A secret society that protects the regular world from monsters? Sign me up! (Literally.)
I really liked the overall idea of the book. I’ve always been a sucker for the “secret (magical) world within our own” trope and I was so happy to see how well it was done in this one. The idea that there is something sinister stalking the woods is not new but something almost primal and somehow a really great example for not seeing the woods because of all the trees.
It was so exciting to discover everything with Casey, to feel the danger, the thrill and the excitement with him.
Casey is a great protagonist. He is 6th grader that hasn’t had it very easy the last year, being almost invisible and all. He is incredibly lonely and jumps at the opportunity of discovering something new and the chance to make friends with people who can actually see him. He is also super nice and friendly and I just really wanted everything to work out great for him.
His little sister Gloria was a great addition. She often sees things (or monsters) that other people don’t see and we learn that she was just as lonely as Casey was. She is still full of joy and tries not to let all the scary things to put her down. Sometimes I didn’t really buy that she was only six years old but I guess it’s hard to consistently get the mannerisms and actions of a six year old in a book right.
I loved Casey and Gloria’s relationship. Casey is a great older brother and while I know from experience that it can be hard not to be annoyed to have your younger siblings hanging around all the time, Casey is supportive and protective. (Sure, there are parts where he does not believe her or puts things she says off as her imagination but I probably wouldn’t have believed her either.) It shows that not all sibling relationships have been full of annoyance and petty quarrels.
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. The world with magic trees, vicious monsters, a far-off war that needs preparing for and a tree-top school for future warriors just speaks to my imagination and let it run wild. I loved the friendships the children built and the hoops Casey had to jump through to ensure his identity as a civilian stayed hidden.
There were just a few small things, that bothered me. For example, Casey and Gloria’s invisiblitiy was not really explained and also not that important anymore later in the story. I think there wasn’t more than one sentence that explained the invisibility away. Furthermore, the behavior of some of the grownups was just…weird? That’s especially true for the parents.
There was also an issue with the writing itself. While it was nicely paced and full of action, there were bits and pieces that seemed to be missing. Like I skipped one or two paragraphes and even rereading certain pages again did not help. That was terribly confusing at times and ripped me out of my reading flow. It was just too bad.
Other than that, the book was full of imagination with great characters and wonderful worldbuilding. I can’t wait to see what Casey is gonna get up to in the next book.
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.
What do you think? Did I make you want to pick this book up?