Daughter of the Bone ­Forest

­Feiwel & Friends. (Witch Hall Duology: Bk. 1). Feb. 2024. 432p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781250872456.
Gr 8 Up–Everyone knows war threatens the Cursed Kingdom, refuge of witches and animal-shape-shifting familiars. Seventeen-year-old familiar Rosy knows, but she wants none of it. Seeing how cruelly the military exploited then discarded her shapeshifter grandparents, she hides her own multiple shifts—especially her wolf. Unfortunately, saving Princess Shaw’s life in the Bone Forest reveals some of Rosy’s animals and lands her at Witch Hall, a witch and familiar boarding school. Though Rosy tries to evade notice, heir-to-the-throne Shaw officially courts her. Shaw hopes for a romantic witch-familiar bond to strengthen them for the coming conflict, but Rosy, despite feeling their connection, refuses to commit herself. War won’t wait, though, and choices must be made. A cliff-hanger ending promises a sequel. Rosy is cued white. Shaw has “dark brown” hair and “pale sepia” skin. The queer-normative world features a racially and ethnically diverse cast. Skye’s intriguing magical school inhabits a sometimes confusing but nonetheless compelling dark fantasy setting, featuring multiple types of witches and their corresponding familiars. Keeping track of the extensive cast may challenge readers, but the main characters are as compelling as their complex world. The unpredictable and rocky association between brash, uncompromising Rosy and necessarily more subtle Shaw will appeal to readers who appreciate complication and nuance in relationships.
VERDICT This magical school dark fantasy set in a diverse and queer-normative world will leave readers eager for the next installment.

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