4 ways Willa of the Wood is more than your average middle-grade fantasy story


With its gripping narrative and focus on the natural world, Robert Beatty’s Willa of the Wood is a middle grade fantasy unlike any other.

Robert Beatty, best known for his Serafina series, has released a new middlegrade fantasy novel. Willa of the Wood hit stores last week, and it’s already attracting the attention of young and old readers alike.

Willa of the Wood follows (you guessed it) Willa, a Faeran thief who steals from the “day-folk” for the good of her clan. But one evening, she breaks into the home of one of the “day-folk,” and everything changes. With one simple act of kindness, she realizes that everything she’s been taught about “the enemy” might be a lie.

To make matters worse, she returns to her clan to find cruel secrets waiting for her, secrets that force her to re-evaluate her place among her people. Their leader, the padaran, isn’t who she thought he was — and that knowledge could very well cost Willa her life. Here’s why you should pick it up.

The action-packed narrative

Willa of the Wood will grip readers from its very first page. The story opens with Willa in serious danger, and the plot quickly unravels from there. Willa’s tale is the kind that doesn’t stop to take a breath, so it’s likely you’ll devour it in one sitting.

Numerous twists and turns are scattered throughout Willa’s narrative, and they all come together in a satisfying conclusion. And once you hit the halfway point, you’ll be dying to know how everything connects.

It also helps that it’s easy to become invested in the outcome of Willa’s predicaments. And that brings me to my next point…

A powerful protagonist

Willa is one of those young female characters who demonstrates strength in nearly everything she does. And even when she’s making mistakes, there’s a lesson to be learned from it. She’s an admirable protagonist, and one we should be happy to expose young readers to.

On top of the fact that she stubbornly defends what she believes is right, Willa is unafraid to take action — even if she endangers herself in the process. She also puts her loved ones before herself, demonstrating her nurturing nature over and over.

Add in the fact that she’s a protagonist of color, and it’s difficult to find anything not to love about Willa.

Love for nature

The magic used throughout Willa of the Wood isn’t that of your typical magician story. Willa’s powers are focused primarily on the natural world, feeding off of the plants and animals around her. They demonstrate the fact that human beings are dependent on nature for survival.

And of course, that means that the book frequently raises the tough questions about man’s relationship with nature. Beatty explores whether it is ever okay for human beings to kill plants and animals. And if so, how far is too far?

With the current state of the environment, these are probably questions we should be asking ourselves daily. And that in itself makes this book a relevant and important one.

A willingness to confront the hard stuff

The most refreshing aspect of Willa’s story is that it tackles difficult topics head-on, instead of talking around them. Too many books for young readers attempt to soften topics like loss and death, but Beatty addresses these repeatedly throughout Willa in the Wood.

Not only does the transparency when it comes to these things make it easier to feel something while reading this, but it also makes it more relatable for people from other age groups.

Next: 4 reasons Spinning Silver is the fairytale retelling you need in your life

Willa in the Wood hit shelves on Tuesday, July 10. You should add it to your summer reading list, no matter what your age.