Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen's huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman took out his knife . . . and took Sophie's heart.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule -- a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she'd heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .
With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can't extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.
Once upon long ago, always and evermore, a girl rode into the Darkwood.
Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new‑fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight.
The tall pines whispered and sighed as she passed under them, the queen’s huntsman at her side. Crows, perched high in the branches, blinked their bright black eyes.
As the sky lightened, the huntsman pointed to a pond ahead and told the girl that they must dismount to let the horses drink. She did so, walking side by side with him. Lost in her thoughts, she did not hear the soft hiss of a dagger leaving its sheath. She did not see the huntsman lift his face to the dawn, or glimpse the anguish in his eyes.
A gasp of shock escaped the girl as the huntsman pulled her close, his broad hand spanning her narrow back. Her eyes, wide and questioning, sought his. She was not afraid—not yet. She felt almost nothing as he slid the blade between her ribs, just a slight, soft push and then a bloom of warmth, as if she’d spilled tea down her dress.
But then the pain came, red clawed and snarling.
The girl threw her head back and screamed. A stag bolted from the brush at the sound. The crows burst from their roosts, their wings beating madly.
The huntsman was skilled. He was quick. He had gutted a thousand deer. A few expert cuts with a knife so sharp it could slice blue from the sky and the delicate ribs were cleaved, the flesh and veins severed.
The girl’s head lolled back. Her legs gave out. Gently, the huntsman lowered her to the ground, then knelt beside her. “Forgive me, dear princess. Forgive me,” he begged. “This foul deed was not my wish, but the queen’s command.” “Why?” the girl cried, with her dying breath.
But the huntsman, tears in his eyes, could not speak. He finished his grim task and got to his feet. As he did, the girl got her answer. For the last thing she saw before her eyes closed was her heart, small and perfect, in the huntsman’s trembling hands.
In the forest, the birds have gone silent. The creatures are still. Gloom lingers under the trees. And on the cold ground, a girl lies dying, a ragged red hole where her heart used to be.
“Hang the huntsman!” you shout. “Burn the evil queen!” And who would fault you?
But you’ve missed the real villain.
It’s easily done. He’s stealthy and sly and comes when you’re alone. He stands in the shadows and whispers his poison. His words drip, drip, drip into the small, secret chambers of your heart.
You think you know this tale, but you only know what you’ve been told. “Who are you? How do you know these things?” you ask.
Fair questions, both.
I am the huntsman. Dead now, but that’s no matter. The dead speak. With tongues blackened by time and regret. You can hear us if you listen.
You will say that I’m telling you tales. Fairy stories. That it’s all make‑believe. But there are more things afoot in the Darkwood than you can imagine, and only a fool would call them make‑believe.
Keep to the path, the old wives say. Stay out of the forest. But one day, you will have to walk deep into those dark woods and find what’s waiting there.
For if you do not, it will surely find you.
Publisher: Hot Key Books Publication Date: 20th October 2020 Format: Paperback Pages: 432 Genre: Fantasy Age: YA Reviewer: Blue Source: N/A