The Thickety: A path begins by J.A. White

cover image

Ill. by Andrea Offermann. The Thickety bk 1. ISBN
9780062257239 (Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Kara lives in a small community that believes that magic is evil. When she was five years old her mother was killed because she was a witch and she and her father and brother are now shunned and tormented by the people of the village. Nearby is the Thickety a strange and dark wood believed to the realm of Sordyr. One day Kara is enticed into it by a bird and uncovers a magical grimoire that has unspeakable powers.
This is an addictive story that is spell binding right from the very first chapter when in the prologue the reader finds out the awful way that Kara learnt her mother was a witch and how she managed not to be hung as a witch as well. From then on the reader is introduced to Kara and her little brother who face hardship, bullying and poverty from the narrow minded villagers and their nasty leader. Her father has not coped at all with the hanging of his wife and it is Kara who has been forced to take on an adult's role and hold the family together. She has only one friend, Lucas, who is a Clearer, part of an outcast group who keep the magical weeds growing near the Thickety from overtaking the village.
Kara is a fascinating character and finds it difficult to stop using the grimoire and to do the right thing. The contrast between Grace the leader's daughter who is power hungry and nasty and wants the grimoire for her own ends and Kara who can question what is going on and wants to remain caring and decent, gives the reader the opportunity to consider power and how it should be used. All the characters are multi-dimensional and each has a back story that adds depth to the tale.
The story is often dark and frightening, with its tales of bigotry, witches, dark forests and bullying, so may not be suitable for younger children, but its vivid prose and enthralling story has meant that it has appeared on many Best Book lists, including Publishers Weekly Best Book and would appeal to a wide age range. Two more books in the series are due to appear and while the The Thickety: A path begins was satisfying in itself, there is a cliff- hanger at its conclusion that will ensure that readers pick up the next in the series.
Pat Pledger