If you are courageous enough to venture into the Darkwood today, you’ll find witches and beasties. The people of Myrsina have been terrified of its inhabitants for a very long time. The huntsmen have encouraged this fear, as well as ensuring the list of abominations that keep the non-magical folk of Myrsina on a short leash continues to grow. Gretel used to fear the Darkwood as well, until she was banished there for being a witch.
Having now lived amongst Darkwood’s witches and beasties, she realises they’re not all as scary as she was led to believe. Although, to be fair, Bin Night is actually pretty scary. Gretel has been welcomed into a sort of functional/dysfunctional found family and they’re about to brave the north to try to recruit help for their upcoming battle against the masked huntsmen.
Witches live in this house. With a spider. Oh, and it’s haunted.
Travelling from their partially edible home in the woods are:
- Gretel, who I’ve already mentioned. She’s the Mudd witch (not actually a witch).
- Buttercup, who cakeifies inanimate objects when she touches them, usually accidentally.
- Jack: botanist extraordinaire.
- Snow, an axe-wielding, armour wearing princess.
- Dwarves. “Yummy!”. No, they’re not edible. You need to read the book to understand why they’re so yummy.
- Patience, who once upon a time was a huntsman, but is now a ghost.
- Trevor: talking spider, spy and all round master of disguises. We love Trevor!
‘And then there’ll be a masked ball and I’ll go in disguise and all the ladies will be like “who is that dashing man?” And I’ll be all “ha ha! It’s me! Trevor the spider and not a man at all!”’
Meanwhile, Hansel, Gretel’s twin brother, and Daisy, Gretel’s friend, are on their own journey. Hansel didn’t have a great deal of page time in the first book and it was really fun getting to know him.
Holding up a mirror to the world both inside and outside of Myrsina (oh, there’s also a character called Mirror, who is … a mirror), this sequel uses humour to address divisiveness and discrimination in society, highlighting ways that social and legal frameworks attempt to demonise anyone that’s considered ‘other’. It also gives voice to those who aren’t in positions of power, while encouraging magical and non-magical folk alike to fight back against injustice and change the system.
‘We have to stop listening to the stories telling us to fear what’s in the Darkwood. We are the Darkwood.’
As soon as I opened this book my brain delighted in shouting, “Bin Night!” Yes, I know we’ve established that Bin Night isn’t exactly something to be delighted about, but it was one of my takeaway phrases from Darkwood. Like so many elements in that story, including fairytale characters that I thought I knew well enough that they couldn’t possibly have the capacity to surprise me, Bin Night was not what I imagined when I first learned of its existence. It had humour, some danger and what I thought I knew before I began reading was turned on its head.
Although I hadn’t heard that it was on its way, as soon as I spotted David Wardle’s cover image I knew it could only be heralding the Darkwood sequel I had been waiting for. While I met plenty of new characters in both the north and the Citadel, they strode into my imagination almost fully formed. I didn’t have to work to get to know them or to visualise the new locations I travelled to.
Although the north was not what I’d been expecting, that wasn’t a bad thing and it was certainly worth the wait. I’m already anticipating learning more about the Glass Witch, who I’ll need to cross the river and travel to the eastern woods to meet. Trousers! This wait is going to be a “pain in the gooseberries.”
I definitely recommend reading this series in order, lest you unknowingly wander into spoiler territory. You really need the foundations that Darkwood provides for a lot of the humour in this book to work best and for the ways the characters interact with one another to make sense.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Farrago, an imprint of Duckworth Books, for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
If you go down to the woods today, be sure of a big surprise.
The Battle of Nearby Village is over, and deep in the Darkwood, Gretel and her friends journey into the hostile mountains of the north, seeking new allies in their fight against the huntsmen. There they find Gilde the Bear Witch, along with a Werewolf named Scarlett and a winged man named Hex. Meanwhile, Hansel and Daisy set off on a dangerous trip of their own to the Citadel, where they end up in the middle of a political battle for the future of the whole country.
Can Gretel and her friends persuade Gilde to join forces, or at least stop fighting them at every step? Can Hansel find a way to heal the land’s divisions and make the huntsmen change their ways before disaster strikes them all? And how did Trevor the spider get hold of a wig? Discover the answers to all these questions and more in Such Big Teeth. Venture into the Darkwood in this modern fairy tale that will bewitch adults and younger readers alike.