Where the Dark Stands Still

Featured
 
4.5 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
557 1
Where the Dark Stands Still
Author(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
February 27, 2024
ISBN
978-1665936477
Buy This Book
      
A girl with dangerous magic makes a risky bargain with a demon to be free of her monstrous power in this young adult fantasy perfect for fans of An Enchantment of Ravens and House of Salt and Sorrows.

Liska knows that magic is monstrous, and its practitioners are monsters. She has done everything possible to suppress her own magic, to disastrous consequences. Desperate to be free of it, Liska flees her small village and delves into the dangerous, demon-inhabited spirit-wood to steal a mythical fern flower. If she plucks it, she can use its one wish to banish her powers. Everyone who has sought the fern flower has fallen prey to unknown horrors, so when Liska is caught by the demon warden of the wood—called The Leszy—a bargain seems better than death: one year of servitude in exchange for the fern flower and its wish.

Whisked away to The Leszy’s crumbling manor, Liska soon makes an unsettling discovery: she is not the first person to strike this bargain, and all her predecessors have mysteriously vanished. If Liska wants to survive the year and return home, she must unravel her taciturn host’s spool of secrets and face the ghosts—figurative and literal—of his past. Because something wakes in the woods, something deadly and without mercy. It frightens even The Leszy…and cannot be defeated unless Liska embraces the monster she’s always feared becoming.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
intriguing YA fantasy
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
WHERE THE DARK STANDS STILL is an intriguing YA fantasy about a young woman who does not belong and seeks to remove the part of herself that has caused her to be an outlier. Liska has magic, something that is not allowed by the church nor the other villagers. Her mother is very cold to her, seeking to prevent her using or getting caught having magic. On a special night, Liska has traveled into the mythically dangerous woods to find a flower that will grant her wish - to have her magic taken away.

Although she has a harrowing journey confronted by spirits and demons, she finds the flower, only to encounter the Leszy, the demon warden of the woods. He offers her a bargain - a year of servitude in exchange for her wish. Feeling as though her options are limited, Liska agrees to the bargain and begins to live with the 700-year-old Leszy. What she begins to learn are the truths about magic, the woods, and the warden who maintains them, as well as, importantly, truths about herself and where she belongs.

What I loved: This was a lush fantasy with a magical house, interesting spirits, and a large mystery that drives the story forward. Liska is at the center of it all, trying to understand what the house and the spirits are trying to tell her. She has lived her life fearing her magic and not really knowing anything about it. Now, understanding that her magic has a role to play in keeping the people around the woods safe, Liska is trying to undo the years of suppressing it and all of the lessons she has internalized. Her story is one of personal growth and coming-of-age as she begins to consider herself and her magic anew.

Beyond Liska, I found some of the secondary characters particularly compelling, such as Jaga, the house spirit who has quite the attitude and adds some fun to the story. Other characters who appear later were also really lovely and added to the story nicely (not specifying to avoid spoilers). The Leszy was also intriguing, of course, for all the secrets he has kept and for the things hidden in his past. He is a complicated character who combines morally good and bad facets into what he is now. His story has a redemption arc as Liska begins to learn of his past and with what happens beyond.

Themes around home/found family, religion and its relation to paganism/magic/history, faith, fitting in, grief/loss, regret, horrible/large mistakes, self-forgiveness and understanding, and what makes a life were all really thought-provoking. The truths of the history, spirits, demons, old gods, and magic were juxtaposed with the teachings of the church, the way the religion was interpreted for/by the citizens, and the way this has morphed over time. The morality of it was murky with some general value to the process but also the danger that lies within these changes for people like Liska or others who do not seem to conform. This is not viewed as a negative thing in all cases, and it was interesting to see this discussion develop throughout the book.

Found family was another strong theme of the story, and Liska really begins to find her place in the world as the story continues. The ending was bittersweet with a strong note of hope that will speak to readers (and may need some tissues). It was quite a powerful and impactful journey without an easy end, even though it felt satisfying and lovely.

What left me wanting more: As for small things, the beginning of the story moves very slowly and felt somewhat circular. The second half of the book really sped things up and was absolutely riveting, so it was definitely worth sticking with it. The romance has a large age-gap, and it seemed to build very quickly, which will work for some readers more than others.

Final verdict: WHERE THE DARK STANDS STILL is a thought-provoking and emotional YA fantasy with a touch of romance, mythology, and magic.
Report this review Comments (0) | Was this review helpful? 1 0
Favorite Read of the Year
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
I don't think I'll ever emotionally recover from this book.

Where the Dark Stands Still by A.B. Poranek is a YA fantasy stand alone that can best be described as Echo North meets Into the Heartless Wood (or, if Howl's Moving Castle, if Howl turned into a tree instead of a bird). Raised both in a village on the outskirts of the spirit-wood and with the belief that magic is dangeorus, Liska wants nothing more than to be rid of her magic. Thus, sparks an adventure into the spirit wood to find a flower that is able to grant any wish. But instead of finding the flower, Liska encounters to the guardian demon of the woods, the Leszy, who offers her a bargain of one year of servitutde in exchange for her wish. Whisked away to his crumbling manor, Liska soon discovers the sinister roots of their bargain. And if she wants to survive the year and return home, she must unravel her host’s spool of secrets and face the ghosts of his past. Those who enter the wood do not always return…

I basically sobbed when I finished this book. Which is quite the accomplishment, as I rarely cry over a book. I think the last one I did, was John Green's The Fault in Our Stars back in 2014. The story is incredible and I absolutely loved the Leszy. Even though he infuriated me with how much of dummy he was with his secrets and constant need to keep Liska away. Just everything about this book was amazing.

The only thing that tripped me up about this book, was it's writing style. But I blame that on my ignorance of slavic mythology, as Poranek throws a lot at the reader. But once you're used to the style and the language it's quite the easy read. I both wanted to finish this book so it was another added to my reading goal, and not because I didn't want it to end.

This was hands down, my favorite book of 2023. Which is quite the title, given I've read over 400 books this year. But this one is certainly up there in my top ten. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would dare listen to my mad ravings. Read this book. You'll thank me later.
Report this review Comments (0) | Was this review helpful? 0 0

User reviews

There are no user reviews for this listing.
Already have an account? or Create an account