Babes in the Wood by Mark Stay #BookReview #BlogTour

July, 1940
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.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Babes in the Wood today. Many thanks to Mark Stay, Simon & Schuster UK and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Babes in the Wood is set a month after the strange events that occurred during the previous book in the Witches of Woodville series, The Crow Folk and village life has almost returned to whatever passes for normal in wartime Woodville - but not for long. The Saint Irene's Bell-Ringers' Tower summer outing may have eventually gone ahead despite the ban on bell-ringing but as they return to the village, the war suddenly makes its presence felt in Woodville.
Faye Bright is the plucky heroine of this series and right from the start of Babes in the Wood, we see her courage as she dramatically rescues three Jewish children and their guardian who have arrived as part of the Kindertransport rescue effort. Some of the villagers react badly to finding four Germans in their midst and she is the one to stand up to them but when Klaus shakes her hand to thank her, it seems as though her burgeoning magical abilities might be trying to warn her of an upcoming tragedy.
In many ways. Faye epitomises life for young women at this time; she is on the brink of womanhood, not quite sure of who she is yet but wanting to make a difference. It just so happens that she is also a witch. She is now receiving magic lessons from Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach but her frustration at what she feels is her lack of progress is almost palpable. However, despite being a book that's brimming with warm humour, there is real drama and tension here too and it's fascinating to see her belief in herself grow alongside her magical prowess.
A humorous novel which touches on the Holocaust has to tread carefully and Mark Stay gets the balance exactly right here. There is no doubt as to what they have fled and though it's clear that their parents have protected them from the worst of the violence, the very fact that they have been separated and forced to escape across the Channel bears witness to their terrifying experiences. Their fear and uncertainty is conveyed with real empathy but there are many heartwarming and funny scenes featuring the youngsters too, particularly the youngest, Rudolf whose enthusiastic, "GUBBA DEE, GUVNOR?" made me laugh out loud. 
Babes in the Wood isn't a children's book but it captures that same wonderful sense of adventure and magic. This is the sort of vibrant storytelling that casts the reader into a world of excitement with a frisson of fear. As the book progresses, there are some seriously dark forces at play resulting in some nightmarish scenes where although I wanted to assume everything would turn out okay, earlier events suggested that more tragedy may follow. It's made clear throughout that although the witches of Woodville have powers which may be able to prevent some atrocities from taking place, they cannot alter the course of every act of evil. 
Faye, Mrs Teach and Miss Charlotte come face to face with a chilling new villain here and with Nazism on the march across Europe, he has sinister ambitions to support Hitler's plans for the Thousand Year Reich. He's not the only antagonist, however, and despite their identity being clearly signposted from the start, it's still intriguing to discover what their motivations are and whether they can be stopped. The war impinges on daily life still further in Woodville in Babes in the Wood, from the poignant reality of the pilots who drink at the pub one day but then fail to return from their latest mission to more alarming developments which lead to some of the villagers fearing the invasion is imminent. 
The superb evocation of the period is augmented still further by the recognition of class differences cleverly woven into the plot. After Faye agrees to temporarily nanny for the Jewish children, she works at Hayward Lodge, home of Lord and Lady Aston. They are exactly as you'd imagine a lord and lady of the time should be; graciously hosting village fetes and supporting the war effort. As was common then, their house has become a hospital for injured soldiers but while the Astons appear to be altruistic, it soon becomes evident that they have secrets of their own and as Terrence cautions Faye not to fall for all their airs and graces.
I adored the cast of characters in The Crow Folk and Babes in the Wood sees the welcome return of many of them, with Faye's best friend, the loveable Bertie Butterworth being a real highlight. He may not have magic but he does have an innate, principled sense of kindness and faith in others, and I had my fingers crossed for his happiness throughout. A few new characters are introduced too and I loved Mr Gilbert and Mr Brewer whose relationship is widely known and accepted in this special little village, despite being against the law at that time. As the series advances. I'm really enjoying discovering more about the various inhabitants of Woodville and to become further invested in what happens to them, especially when dark forces seek to cause harm and misery.
Babes in the Wood is as wonderfully engaging a read as The Crow Folk and although it can be read as a standalone, I really would recommend reading the books in order to truly appreciate this strange, magical world that Mark Stay has created. A joy to read from start to finish, Babes in the Wood is exciting, moving and utterly captivating. I never want this series to end! 

Babes in the Wood is published by Simon and Schuster, purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookshops whenever possible.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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



Post a Comment