Good morning readers – are we all sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin. Today I have for you a very atmospheric little number from Sarah Dalton – the new release young adult fantasy novel, White Hart. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!
White Hart follows social outcast Mae, as she and her father scavenge wood for trade in the Waerg Woods, on the outskirts of the village of Halts-Walden. Tacitly shunned by the villagers for living in the creepy and dangerous woods and riding a wild white stag, nobody but Mae and her father are aware that she is the craft-born – the only person in the kingdom able to control and manipulate the magic in the natural world. Mae hides her gift because the King has decreed that the craft-born must marry the young prince Casimir and return magic to the workings of the Red Palace. But another girl in Mae’s village claims to be craft-born and the prince arrives in Halts-Walden, ready to claim his bride. When events take a major turn for the worse unexpectedly, Mae and Casimir must set out to right some wrongs – but will Mae be able to keep her secret from the prince?
Beware the Waerg Woods
They’re deadly, tricksy and wild
even for craft-born
The cover of this book really sums up the atmosphere in the story. It perfectly conveys the lingering sense of danger once Mae and the prince enter the woods to finish their respective personal quests.
There was a lot I liked about White Hart. One of the things I most appreciated in the writing was the way Dalton approached the world-building almost on a “need-to-know” basis. Important details about the different cultures, the way magic works in the world, and the lie of the land were revealed naturally throughout the book as the reader required them. This was a great relief to me, as I often find when reading fantasy that authors will get bogged down trying to explain different aspects of the world they’ve created to the detriment of the narrative flow. Thankfully, Dalton was too clever to fall into this trap and by the end of the book I felt I had a good working knowledge of what Mae’s world was about without having to endure lots of action-stopping explanations.
The plot is fairly episodic, with Mae and Casimir and their loyal steeds falling afoul of a number of the dangers of the Waerg Woods while in pursuit of their quarry. There were a few moments during the early part of their adventure that had me wishing things would speed up a bit, and I think this was a result of having a big chunk of the book reliant on just the two main characters. Fortunately, another character eventually pops up to join the party and then a whole host of interlopers inject various helpful and hinderous action and things begin to move along at a reasonable pace again.
White Hart is the beginning of a series, and while this book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, it wasn’t so perilous that I felt let down by having the story stop where it did. There’s plenty going on in this novel to keep the reader busy, and the cliffhanger ending is just right to pique the interest for the next book.
I’d definitely recommend this book for lovers of YA fantasy, but there’s a bit of everything here – action, adventure, death, romance, friendship, tough ladies, beautiful ladies, carnivorous plants….you get the idea.
Until next time,