Review: Wildsmith: City of Secrets written by Liz Flanagan and illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton

Written by Liz Flanagan
Illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton
Published by Uclan Publishing

Wildsmith:  City of Secrets is the second book in the fantastic Wildsmith series which starts with Into the Dark Forest.  It is every bit as enchanting, exciting and heart-warming as the first:  a perfect fantasy adventure for young readers of 7+.

Rowan is missing her father, who she has had to leave behind in the city of Holderby, to escape the war with the Estrians.  She is staying with her Grandpa and her mother in his home close to the Dark Forest where she has recently discovered that, like her Grandpa, she is a wildsmith – someone who can speak to, and heal, both magical and non-magical creatures. 

Imagine Rowan’s surprise when she wakes in the night to find that her father has arrived – but he is not alone!  He has brought a young pegasus who he has rescued from the Estrians who are breeding pegasi in captivity.  Despite the danger of hiding a rare and valuable magical creature, Rowan is determined to help the young pegasus, and keep it safe from those who are intent on hunting it.

And so begins a brilliantly exciting, fast-paced and magical adventure as Rowan must use all her courage, ingenuity and determination to protect Mouse – and herself- from capture by an old foe.  Rowan faces danger, betrayal and separation as she is forced to flee her new home in the forest …  Will she be able to evade relentless pursuers?  Who could have betrayed her family?  Can she find a place of sanctuary for the young pegasus when war continues to rage?

Rowan is an incredibly likeable, kind-hearted young girl who is not scared to stand up for what she believes is right, even when this puts her at risk.  I loved the close bond of friendship and trust she develops with Mouse, the young pegasus.  She is able to empathise with Mouse’s separation from his mother as she faces her own separation.  Rowan faces her fears with courage and shows great inner strength when making difficult decisions. 

There is so much in this adventure that will appeal to younger readers:  the gripping, action-packed adventure written in short chapters; the inclusion of magical creatures and those who can use magic; the perfect balance of danger with hope and friendship; and the discovery of secrets and exploration of new places.  Whilst this can be read as a standalone, those who have read the first book will enjoy meeting characters from the first book which I think is something that really appeals to younger readers:  that sense of connection and familiarity which makes re-reading books and enjoying books in a series a wonderfully comforting and joyous reading experience.

The full- and partial-page illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and complement the story perfectly, especially capturing the wonderful bonds of friendship and family.  I think the illustrations of Mouse will see many young readers yearning for their own pegasus!

This is a magical treat of an adventure for young readers, an adventure brimming with courage, friendship and hope.  I have no doubt that they will be as eager to read this young wildsmith’s next adventure as I am!

Thank you to Uclan Publishing for a finished copy in return for my honest opinion.

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