Thursday, July 27, 2023

Today's review... When Dark Roots Hunt by Zena Shapter

Today's read heads into a slightly darker fantasy direction. It's a fantasy with the promise of an unique world and tons of tension. I do like the cover (always those covers!) and am curious to see how tense this one gets.

by Zena Shapter
MidnightSun Publishing
Young Adult Fantasy
355 pages

Don’t go out onto the lake. Wyann trees search the shallows to spear passing prey with their roots. Giant water-ants hunt anything that moves on the water-skin. Sala’s village survives hidden behind a wall of poisonous ivy, because everyone don’t go out onto the lake.
But when her village refuses to listen to sense, and continues squeezing beautiful pond-bred ‘keeiling’ fish to death for their precious saliva oils, Sala has no choice. She will risk it all to prove herself one last time, else leave everything behind for the dark shaded swamps beneath the towering hillfarms of Palude.
At least that’s the plan before a strange comet crosses the night sky, throwing her and her pet pointer into a race through wyann-infested swampland to unearth long-hidden truths and stir rivalries into a terrifying conflict set to change the world of Palude forever. Sala must do whatever it takes to face the truth of who she to save her village, to save her family, to save herself.

If only they had listened.



Every moment seems to sit on a knife's edge of tension in this uniquely crafted world.

Sala knows her village is dying, but not only do the others refuse to change their fate, they won't even recognize the truth of what she's telling them. Determined to prove that there's a better way, she heads out onto the forbidden lake to harvest milk from healthy fish and not the dying ones hanging near the shore. But there's a reason her village holds tight rules and stays sheltered. The world around them is deadly. When a comet shoots through the sky during her expedition, a chain of events is set off, which will destroy the village's last bit of life...unless she can stop it. 

Already the first page unleashes the details of a vivid and unique world, which holds a dank and dark atmosphere. The creatures possess a delightful mix of familiarity and fantasy to make the threat sit with just the right amount of creepiness. Especially the first scenes come to life in the mind's eye and make the danger Sala faces potent. The writing's kept tight, letting these scenes unfold without overloaded details and allowing the danger and action to stay front and center the entire time. Despite the lush environment and characters (her 'pet' is amazing), little time is spent on getting to know life in the village or the people there. Without some history or glimpse at Sala's normality, it's difficult to build needed understanding and sympathy. Still, the read grabs more and more until it's hard to put down.  

Sala is a strong character, who is ready to take on whatever comes her way. Her stubborn attitude makes her interactions with others a little prickly, at times, and kept her at arm's length, but for the mission she's on, she can't be a push-over because she's got a lot to face. And this drives the tale forward.

It's a grabbing read with a setting, which entices and draws in. There's never a boring moment, and it's a refreshing breeze with bite. 

And here she is...

Zena Shapter writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, reaching across age and genre into the heart of storytelling. A multi-award-winning author of speculative and contemporary fiction, she loves conjuring journeys into the beyond and unusual. To read more of her work, please browse the bibliography on her website at

When not writing, Zena loves movies, frogs, chocolate, potatoes and living with her family among Sydney’s beautiful Northern Beaches. She’s travelled all around the world, visiting close to 50 countries, which inspire her to create worlds of her own. With her BA (Hons) in English Literature, Zena enjoys working as a mentor, editor and inclusive creativity advocate, inspiring writers to develop their craft. She teaches storytelling and writing at festivals, libraries and schools, judges various literary awards and encourages everyone to value the importance of creativity. She believes that stories are our best invention.

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