If you value your life, stay out of the forest.
As a captive of the Owl Queen’s Court, Nascha’s life has always been one knife’s edge away from disaster. But when she is threatened for nothing more than the colour of her hair, Nascha attempts the unthinkable: escape through the dreaded Magpie King’s forest.
Hunted by sharp toothed and sharper witted foxfolk, and hated by all for being a witch, Nascha fears herself doomed until she joins forces with a mysterious young man. With him she finds a glimmer of hope, even as her own unpredictable powers flicker into existence.
But hope is fleeting.
The forces arrayed against her are insurmountable, and Nascha soon comes to realise that pursuit of her own freedom will come at a greater cost to the forest. As the darkness closes in around them, Nascha is forced to ask:
At what price is she willing to purchase her life?
How dearly is she willing to sell it?
The Yarnsworld novels have a special place in my heart.
Not only are the covers absolutely gorgeous (see below), but I love that the stories themselves are like Brothers Grimm-esque fairytales in the form of a modern novel.
From The Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court is an almost-sequel to Benedict Patrick’s first Yarnsworld novel, They Mostly Come Out at Night. It’s set in the same part of the world, it explores the ramifications of the first book, and yet it’s written in a way that would be easily accessible for anyone who wishes to dive into the world at this point.
Our two main POV characters are Nascha and Bradan.
Nascha is held captive at the owl queen’s court simply for the colour of her hair — white, a sign that a person has been blessed by the Owl Spirit. As this blessing is traditionally restricted to members of the royal family, Nascha is kept drugged (with her hair dyed) to keep the throne free of political embarrassment. When she realizes that her life is in danger, she takes an opportunity to escape into the Magpie King’s forest with a charming stranger.
While Nascha is driven by a desire to feel safe, our other POV is pretty much the opposite. Bradan is a man who has lived his life yearning to be the man that his father never was. He longs for power, though he wishes to use it to help those who can’t help themselves. This isn’t to say that his motives are entirely selfless, as Bradan’s infatuation with the idea of “being a hero” can at times border on obsession.
You can tell that Benedict Patrick has really improved on his character work with each novel. Both Nascha and Bradan are likeable, sympathetic characters with enough complexity to keep things interesting, and contrasting motivations that compliment each other and generate conflict.
This is a very tight novel, with the plot, setting, and characters all very interlinked. The world of the Magpie King’s forest is changing, necessitating decisions from our characters which will lead to their development, drive the plot, and in turn change the world itself. It’s cyclical. A symbiotic relationship between all three elements which is quite frankly a joy to read.
But with that said, Patrick’s greatest strength is his ability to use his worldbuilding to create an distinct and tangible aesthetic. His worlds have a sense of magic, and of history. They have a weight to them. From the little in-world fairytales interspersed between the chapters of the main story, to the way in which real-world mythlogical influences are blended with totally original constructs, this is a fully fleshed-out and entirely unique world.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: There’s nothing out there quite like Yarnsworld.
From The Shadows of the Owl Queens Court is yet another fantastic addition to this series, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.