Life in the Urwald is dangerous and even the youngest children know it is treacherous to stray off the path. In a land threatened by trolls, werewolves, werebears, firebirds, and elves - you have to grow up quickly in order to survive.
The only wizard Jinx knows of is The Bonemaster, and he is not somebody you would want to cross. In fact, the rumor is that he "sucks out people's souls with a straw." Luckily for Jinx, he has a special ability to see people's thoughts in colors around their heads, and this wizard's (Simon) weren't "red and angry" but, were "green and blue" and seemed fairly safe.
While Jinx is living with Simon, he works for him and learns a little bit of magic. And, even though Simon is gruff and secretive, "the thing that Jinx liked most about Simon, besides his cooking, was that he never hit Jinx at all. Not once." Clearly Jinx is not used to a safe, inviting environment, and even with witches visiting and Simon leaving for long periods of time - he has found a place to call home.
Simon's motives are always a little questionable, but when he takes Jinx's magic away, Jinx decides to set out on his own to try to get it back. His journey unites him with Reven, a boy who speaks like an old fairy-tale prince using phrases like "a damsel in distress" and "Fear not, fair maiden! We shall save you." They meet up with Elfwyn, the girl in a red-hooded cape who is on her way to her grandmother's house (her grandmother also just happens to be a witch). Elfwyn tells anybody who asks the frank truth and Jinx often finds himself regretting telling her anything important.
This story definitely plays on our well-known fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.), but the elements that are familiar to us are twisted around in a tale of adventure and magic. The origins of most of the characters are not fully developed, leaving plenty of room for more books in this series and they all have their own stories to tell.
Overall, this was a fun fantasy adventure with some darker magical elements. Luckily, it had plenty of comic relief with Reven and Elfwyn's unpredictable behavior and their search to remove their own mysterious curses. If you are a lover of fantasy, parts of this may feel familiar, but overall a fun read with interesting characters.
by Sage Blackwood
published by Harper Collins
Recommended for ages 8 and up