29 October 2012

Review: Stonewylde Series by Kit Berry

When 14-year-old Sylvie begins to develop allergies to almost everything about her London home--the air, the food, and synthetic materials--she eventually ends up in the hospital. There, a sympathetic nurse suggests that Sylvie and her mother, Miranda, move to a closed community in Dorset, where there is plenty of fresh air and organic foods.

Miranda is naturally hesitant to relocate, but once she talks with Magus, the head of the community, she is immediately won over by his charm and generosity. And sure enough, after the pair settles into their cottage in the woods at Stonewylde, Sylvie quickly begins to heal, helped by powerful energy Magus emits.

Although Sylvie is happy in her new home, she doesn't have many friends, until see gets to know Yul, a handsome teen from the village. Unfortunately, Sylvie is told she's part of the manor house and thus cannot mix with the villagers. It is also clear that Magus has an especially deep dislike for Yul and is continually punishing the boy. As Sylvie regains her health and feels her inner strength, she realizes she will eventually be forced to pick sides, but first she has to determine who can be trusted and who has her best interests at heart.

Kit Berry's Stonewylde series is geared to an audience just out of middle grade books. The novels have a strong vein of magic, but that magic is based in folklore and has a pagan-like nature. Standing stones, the earth and sun, and the solstices and equinoxes are important to the people of Stonewylde, who are mostly cut off from modern technology and Western religions. Magus is clearly the man in charge, and he definitely appears to have the personality of a cult leader. Some in the community see only his charisma, whereas others see only his power.

The first book in Berry's series, Magus of Stonewylde, introduces us to the characters and the setting. The story moves at a good pace, and although the plot is somewhat predictable, the premise is fresh enough that it kept my interest. Like Sylvie and her mom, readers will question a lot of what they see at Stonewylde. It's interesting that mother and daughter react in their own ways to Magus and their new home, which increases the tension and affects Sylvie's decisions.

Sylvie and Yul come from totally different worlds, thus they have unique personalities that have been shaped by their backgrounds. You'll be happy to know that they don't fall madly in love at first sight. Their relationship is complicated and has time to develop.

The novel involves power struggles, legends, secrets from the past, and pagan ceremonies. Some of the scenes in the first novel contain lightly veiled references to sex, pregnancy, and menstruation. Child beating and corporal punishment also occur. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the books to any reader over the age of 12, but some parents may be more conservative than I am.

The paperback edition of the second book, Moondance of Stonewylde comes out in November. It starts immediately (as in the next day) after the first book ends. I've only just started reading it, but I can't wait to see what happens to Sylvie, Yul, and the rest of the community. At least two more books in the series will be released in paperback before year's end.

Kit Berry's Stonewylde books are recommended for anyone looking for a fantasy series with good characters that doesn't involve vampires and pointy hats but still preserves an atmosphere of magic. Visions are had, spells are cast, birds carry messages, and standing stones have power.

This post will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Magus of Stonewylde at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Orion / Gollancz, 2012; ISBN-13: 9780575098824
Buy Moondance of Stonewylde at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Orion / Gollancz, 2011; ISBN-13: 9780575098855
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Charlie 10/29/12, 6:54 AM  

Awesome premise, and I love that the second book continues the day after, so much often gets lost during the transition of books. It sounds a pretty good series for any age really.

Zibilee 10/29/12, 10:27 AM  

These sound so interesting, and I love the fact that they are geared toward the younger set, but still include serious issues. We didn't have this kind of fiction around when I was young. It was either Sweet Valley High, or Christopher Pike. Nothing else. Excellent and very vivid reviews today!

Julie P. 10/29/12, 1:54 PM  

What a great story! I bet kids will love these.

Daryl 10/29/12, 2:08 PM  

adding this to the list for my friend's daughter .. thanks!

Belle Wong 10/29/12, 9:32 PM  

This sounds like an interesting series. It's a little too old for Dylan, but maybe in a couple of years.

Jenners 11/1/12, 4:14 PM  

I know a girl who might be just perfect for these!

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