The Wherewood by Gabrielle Prendergast

Review by Belle Cole

Orca Currents from Orca Book Publishers, August 17, 2021

115 pages, paperback, $10.95 CAD, 9781459828049

Middle-grade, ages 9-12, grades 2-5


“Violet and I formulated a plan last night. It’s bonkers. But it might work. And we have no other choice… It’s dangerous. That’s why we’re leaving it to the last minute.” 

Getting swallowed into the Earth has become an everyday thing for Blue Jasper. In Faerieland, that’s just how you travel! Gabrielle Prendergast’s The Wherewood is a middle-grade fantasy book for lower-level readers that takes a unique spin on classic elements of Faerie myth and legend, constructing an exciting world and fast-paced story. This second book in the Faerie Woods Series follows fourteen-year-old Blue Jasper on his quest into Faerieland to help his nixie friend Salix return home. As a human, Blue puts himself at risk within the dangerous faerie woods and faces obstacles that challenge his responsibility, cleverness, bravery, and kindness. 

The strongest element of the book is its creative world-building and imagery. Faerieland is divided into several woods that all have characterizing features. Prendergast skillfully uses descriptive language in a concise way that engages the reader’s imagination and creates a visually exciting world. On their quest, Blue Jasper and his companions find themselves in the Wherewood – the wood of lost things. They are delighted by this strange wood where the ground is made of lost things like jackets and jump-ropes, and the tree leaves are replaced with twinkling keys that chime in the wind. 

The story also contains its share of humor. It’s in the Wherewood that the characters encounter a dog, a witch, and…George Washington? Prendergast surprises readers with this creative twist by materializing lost homework problems in the form of ghost-like beings. I also greatly enjoyed the parallels to classic faerie lore such as the dangers of faerie food to humans, the legend of changelings, a faerie’s inability to lie, and an emphasis on the significance of names.

However, despite the strengths of this book, I find it falls short in a few areas. The story is fast-paced, but the plot doesn’t result in much character development. By the end, the characters themselves remain relatively unchanged. Additionally, the dialogue struggles to create strong, distinctive voices amongst the characters and does not always feel as if it were written with certain personalities in mind. For instance, Blue Jasper’s voice sounds very similar to his younger siblings. He uses language that would sound natural for his ten-year-old family members but feels far too youthful for a teenager. The plot also appears to suffer from a few inconsistencies. There are some problems where obvious solutions seem to be disregarded to further the plot. That being said, these solutions might not present as obvious to the book’s intended audience.

Despite these critiques, this book is a fun and exciting read. It still delivers a story full of thrilling events within a visually striking world. While this book wasn’t my favourite, The Wherewood is an overall creative, fast-paced story with many elements that are sure to delight and hold the attention of its targeted readers.

Belle Cole is an English Literature and Creative Writing student at UBC from San Antonio, Texas. She is passionate about learning new things and proclaims herself a chronic “hobby-hopper,” regularly jumping from one hobby to the next. No matter her current obsession, her spirited love for reading, writing, and traveling remain ever-constant. 

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