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The Green King coverWild woods, mysterious beings, a battle between good and evil and worlds within worlds – all ingredients which make The Green King, the debut novel by Stephanie Parker, an unputdownable must-read.

I downloaded it onto my Kindle for just 77p on a whim back in February – I could never resist a title like that, with its evocation of pagan mythos – and since then have found myself thinking about it often. It may be aimed at children, but the plot is so original and creative that I recommend it for all ages.

Here’s the blurb:

When her parents move from London to a country town on the edge of a massive wood, Charlotte is sad to be leaving her city friends behind. Yet she’s entranced by the spectral image of a green man who seems to metamorphose before her very eyes… Slowly but surely, Charlotte finds herself being inexorably drawn into a magical world of dark and light, good and evil; a world where something mysterious, something wonderful and something terrible is happening in the woods. Together with her shadowy neighbour – a boy who has spent his life exploring the woods – and another who was inexplicably lost there as a child for a week, the three unearth a terrible secret that threatens to destroy not only the woods but also potentially our whole world; and in exposing the mystery they discover their destinies.

As a child I was captivated by Robert Westall’s The Wind Eye and it has stayed with me all my life. The Green King evoked many of the same feelings – suspense, peril, horror, emotion – as ordinary children encountered extraordinary and otherworldly situations. It’s written in a classic adventure style, set in modern times with a strangely old-fashioned feel – but is like nothing I’ve ever read before. I’d file it alongside another of my favourites, The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper, for its inventiveness.

As the children explored the Bright Woods and Dark Woods and learned more about the darkness seeping into their world, the book raced along with so many twists and turns that I was taken by surprise on several occasions. It was so gripping that I worried the ending was going to be a horrible disappointment, but happily it reached a satisfying conclusion with most ends tied up.

I plan to come back to this magical fantasy book again and again and I’m hoping for a sequel or two. It’s already on my list to read to my son when he’s old enough – it just might be better not to read it too close to bedtime…

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