In a quiet village in rural Kent, a magical mystery leads to murder…
Woodville has returned to ‘normal’ after the departure of the Crow Folk. The villagers put out fires from aircraft shot down in the Battle of Britain, and Faye Bright discovers that magic can be just as dangerous as any weapon.
The arrival of a trio of Jewish children fleeing the Nazis brings the fight for Europe to the village. When their guardian is found dead, Faye must play nanny to the terrified children while gathering clues to uncover a dark magic that threatens to change the course of the war. And she must do it quickly – the children have seen too much, and someone wants them silenced for good.
For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes the second novel in this delightful trilogy of war, mystery and a little bit of magic…
I absolutely adored The Crow Folk when I read it earlier this year and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to read and review the sequel, Babes in the Wood, as part of the blog tour.
Set in July 1940, the Crow Folk have been ousted from Woodville and things seem to be returning to normal, or as normal as things get during a war, at least. Faye Bright’s focus is now almost solely upon magic as – having shown an aptitude for it – she is now being instructed by Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach. Both seem to intend for Faye to learn gradually, and while easing in may work for some, Faye’s frustration at her lack of progress is palpable. She’s eager to learn, and chafes at the gradual sharing of knowledge from her tutors. While magic is something requiring control, Faye has shown herself capable, and I do think that both of her tutors are keeping her in the dark, whether out of concern for her wellbeing or because they can’t quite be bothered, I’m not sure. It helps the reader to sympathise with Faye, as she does seem to be treated with kid gloves at times and I’m keen – as I’m sure is Faye – to see what she’s capable of.
Faye is a fantastic character. Down to earth, you soon learn that what you see is what you get and that she’s not one for putting on airs and graces. She’s still as headstrong as ever and – with the very best of intentions – lands herself in trouble at any and every available opportunity. She’s exactly the sort of character you’d want on your side in a pickle though – brave and loyal, I think that she’d make a great friend. Having established Faye as a no-nonsense young woman with little concern for traditional gender roles, it was interesting to see her soften slightly as her friendship with Bertie shows the potential to evolve into something more. It adds another dimension to the narrative as the potential for romance is introduced, and even though it’s a minor element, it’s nice to see Faye’s life developing in this way. I like her and want her to be happy even if I don’t see marriage and children being her chief concern.
From the first page of Babes in the Wood, I was gripped. Mark Stay has once again created a fantastic narrative but one that has a different feel to that of the first novel. In The Crow Folk, the danger felt immediate and obvious as the Crow Folk – led by the appropriately named Pumpkinhead – descend on Woodville and wreak havoc. With this novel, the danger feels less tangible – it’s there, but more distant, at least to begin with. There’s more of a mystery to unravel as Faye must work out if someone is working as a double agent, all while looking after three young but very adorable children (if Rudolf doesn’t steal your heart I don’t know what will!). While the plot of The Crow Folk feels separate to world events, Babes in the Wood develops in such a way as to be more relevant to the war, and I have a feeling that Faye may have a more significant role to play in that conflict than you might expect from a young woman from a small village in Kent.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I absolutely love this series and it’s one that I think can be enjoyed by adults both old and young alike. I love the warm humour that Mark Stay injects into the narrative, and I think that it’s a wonderful series in which to lose yourself for a few hours. I was completely caught up in Faye’s antics as she once again dives into events with no pause for thought and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to in the next instalment, The Ghost of Ivy Barn, currently due for release in May 2022.
Babes in the Wood was published by Simon & Schuster on 28 October. Huge thanks to the publisher and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
About the Author
Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com.
Make sure you check out the other wonderful bloggers taking part in the tour: