Primary Genre(s): Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Published: 4 August 2020 by Macmillan Children’s Publishing/Henry Holt and Co.
Page count: 288
My Format: eBook/ARC via NetGalley
Do I Recommend: Yes
Commission Link (U.S.): Buy The Forest of Stars
My rating: ★★★★☆
Left all alone after her mother passes away, twelve-year-old Louisa LaRoche watches the sky for her father. Long ago, a powerful gust of wind swept through town, stealing him away on the wings of his untamed magic—the same magic that stirs within Louisa. As if she is made of hollow bones and too much air, her feet never quite touch the ground.
But for all her sky gazing, Louisa finds her fortune on the leaf-strewn street when she spots a gleaming black-and-gold invitation—a ticket to the Carnival Beneath the Stars. If her father fits in nowhere else, maybe she’ll find him there, dazzling crowds alongside the other strange and wonderful feats. Only, soon after she arrives, a tightrope act ends disastrously—and suspiciously. As fate tugs Louisa closer to the stars, she must decide if she’s willing to slip into the injured performer’s role, despite the darkness plucking at the carnival’s magical threads.
In The Forest of Stars, Heather Kassner weaves a spectacle of wondrous magic, unexpected friendship, and dark secrets.
This book ticks a lot of boxes for me – fairy tales, carnivals, magic, mystery, adventure – so I had to read it! Here are my pros and cons for The Forest of Stars:
- This is a dark, magical story full of everything from intrigue and danger to friendship and love. It really is a wonderful rollercoaster of events and emotions.
- The carnival atmosphere is fun and foreboding at the same time! I seem to be drawn to books that include circuses and carnivals… that unsettling underbelly is just intriguing to me.
- This book doesn’t get too scary – it is a middle grade book after all. However, the atmosphere created is dark and mysterious and the people Louisa (the lead character) encounters range from almost normal to quite odd.
- Considering she is essentially orphaned and homeless at age 12, Louisa never really feels sorry for herself or her circumstances and I appreciated that more than I can express. She is open to learning about herself and others and helping herself and others. She is a strong and determined girl with a mission and you will applaud her throughout the entire story.
- The friendships forged between Mercy, Ox, Jess, Quiet Si, and Louisa were really fantastic.
- I loved the concept of having your misfortune read, instead of your fortune. I won’t go into detail here, but a misfortune can be a good thing if you look at it if from the right perspective. I really liked that idea! I think it helps to remind children to at least try to find positive aspects or unseen benefits from what initially appears to be an adversity.
- The Night Circus (by Erin Morgenstern) is one of my favorite books and I thought this book definitely had some similar magical elements.
- Creative and unique black and white illustrations by Iz Ptica are sprinkled throughout the book.
- Gorgeous, eye-catching cover!
- I wanted a little more backstory about Mercy, Ox, and Jess.
- There were times the writing felt a little bit verbose for the average middle grade reader. I was getting more of a literary fiction vibe from time to time, rather than a middle grade fiction vibe.
- Louisa’s mother does die at the beginning of the book and Louisa visits her grave alone. Louisa’s father vanished years before, so Louisa is essentially alone, penniless, and homeless. This isn’t a con to me personally, and it is an integral part of the story, but I’ve included the information here in case these events are triggers for other readers.
At its core, this is a coming of age story wrapped up in an adventure and a mystery, with a big dose of magic thrown in for good measure. Louisa learns a lot about herself and others and I really think young readers will enjoy it.
Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing/Henry Holt and Co. for a free eARC of this book, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Forest of Stars. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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