REVIEW of Secrets of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt

secrets of the wild woodTiuri and two more knights are waiting for Sir Ristridin. The plan was to meet up at Ristridin’s castle when spring came, to see if any of them had discovered the identity and whereabouts of an evil knight who killed their friend in the previous book.  But Sir Ristridin, who ventured into the Wild Wood, has gone missing.

As rumors of invasion lure his friends elsewhere, Tiuri enters the Wild Wood with his squire Piak and discovers an evil festering in this foreboding place. The black knights with red shields have set up a fortress there, and the mysterious Men in Green that live in the forest seem to be allied with them. Once again, Tiuri discovers secrets that will mean the salvation or downfall of a kingdom and must go on a quest to save what is true and good.

This second volume in Tiuri’s story started out a little slow, but within a few chapters, it turned into a perilous tale of adventure, treachery, honor, and bravery. Lavinia, the daughter of Lord Rafox, re-enters the story with a romantic subplot hinted at in the previous book. Tiuri is conflicted at first by what lady he owes his allegiance to. As he spent time with the bewitching Isadoro, there were echoes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

In this book, Tiuri becomes more than an adventurous boy. He must not only stay true to his mission himself, but he must have the wherewithal to bind others to the cause, showing them that inaction is just as wrong as fighting for the other side. He must use his wits to protect the life of one that few find valuable, and maintain his word to the least of all even while maintaining his responsibility to his king.

One of the remarkable things about these books is the complex emotions the characters and readers must grapple with within the matter-of-fact narrative style. Piak feels the twinge of jealousy of a friendship being overshadowed by a love interest. Sir Ristridin feels the longing to give up knight-errantry and have a wife and a home, but fears that he is too old for the woman who loves him. Tiuri feels both pity and loathing for his enemy, and recognizing this, his enemy hates him all the more. Tiuri also kills his first man in this book, and even though it was necessary and honorable, he still feels the weight of that death on his shoulders.

With a fast-paced but thought-provoking story, this book could be enjoyed by middle grade students, young adults, or adults. The secrets of the Wild Wood will stay with you, long after you finish reading the last page.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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