Between The Water and the Woods is a beautifully written story that feels more like an ageless fable than a contemporary novel. The characters are nuanced and the plot is filled with action and adventure. Unlike many books targeting a younger audience, we have a parent fully involved (and respected) in the story. And although we have another unique snowflake with the power to change the world, and yet another instance where no one actually tells her about her ability and she has to discover it for herself, I can overlook that cliche thanks to the excellent writing.
Story: Emmeline’s quiet village always had one rule: never cross the river and go into the dark woods. There have long been stories of evil magical creatures living there – vicious beings afraid only of water. But on a dare, Emmeline’s brother crosses the bridge and gets too close to the woods; when a creature emerges Emmeline throws a water lily at it and they escape back to the village. Required to report magical creature appearances, Emmeline and her family, along with her father’s friend and a young stowaway, travel to the capital to tell of their sighting to the King. But along the way, they will become embroiled in an assassination attempt as well as become caught in a battle for power between the science minded faction and the magic-minded fashion.
The crux of the novel is that the land is divided by those who believe in magic and those who believe in science. The science minded scoff at the magic (which has not been proven) while the magic- minded individuals are always seeking out proof that there is still magic in the world. Of course, our heroine will have magic that will blow apart the politics in the Kingdom with that revelation.
The world building was a typical medieval setting, just with whips instead of swords. I did like that we didn’t have an insta-luv situation so much as one of mutual respect. Our heroine and hero share a common background linking them together and giving them a reason to work together. And while there are smaller mysteries to solve, there are also the story-wide arc conflicts that need to be addressed as well. I did like that the author takes the time to give us a backstory on the hero and flesh out his character in a more organic manner.
There were only a few illustrations but they were nicely done. The cover gives a good idea of the illustrations inside (sans color) though the cover doesn’t actually show any scene from the book sadly.
In all, this feels like a great book that is suitable/interesting for both adults and young teens. The writing is strong and the plot intriguing and with enough action to keep readers invested in the story. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.