By age 6, Kara Westfall has seen and suffered unimaginable loss: Her mother was convicted of witchcraft, and Kara was accused as well. By 12 she’s developed a dark sense of humor, but she’s a dutiful sister to younger brother Taff and tries to care for her grieving father. Their village hates and fears her, so when a strange bird appears in her path and leads her into the Thickety, the oppressive forest that surrounds them, she’s frightened but curious. What she finds there will reshape her destiny.
Author J.A. White packs The Thickety: A Path Begins with genuinely scary scenes, many of which revolve less around magic than simple human cruelty. Kara’s nemesis Grace is a Bad Seed / Crucible mashup, solicitous to all adults while torturing and enslaving her playmates in the pursuit of ultimate power. Kara’s helplessness to allay her father’s grief, and her anger when she has to mother him and shoulder his share of the work, speak to the adult pressures many kids face daily. It’s no wonder that a taste of power turns her own head, and threatens to sink her entirely.
The story ends with a blindsiding twist, after which nothing is certain and everyone’s potentially in peril. Fortunately the subtitle A Path Begins promises more to come, because readers who enter The Thickety will want to return.
Heather Seggel reads too much and writes all about it in Northern California.