A Fairy Tale Gone Mad!
An iconic book leads best friends, Eamon, Mark, and Caroline, on a magical and, sadly, treacherous journey to Addington Isle on Barley Day. The book that leads them into peril is Winterset Hollow, written in verse about a wondrous group of animals who live and thrive in a place called The Hollow. Runny the Rabbit, Flackwell the Frog, Phineas the Fox, and Bing the Builder Bear are all characters in the book and are beloved by Eamon and Caroline who see the work as pivotal in their lives, although for different reasons. Mark is just along for the ride because he loves both Caroline and, his good friend, Eamon, and would do anything for them. The trio have received free passes to the island through a magazine and, arriving at the dock, find a group of others who are also going on a pilgrimage because of the book. A run-down boat, captained by a man named Gene, proves to be their ferry, and, putting their apprehensions aside, they set off on their journey to what once was the home of E. B. Addington, author of the book.
When they arrive, they find the property is enclosed by a tall fence, the gates of which are chained shut. Eamon, Mark, and Caroline begin to walk the perimeter, finally finding a spot where a fallen tree has left a hole in the fence. Thus, they enter the property, finally finding the manor house where, to their astonishment, they are greeted by none other than Runny the Rabbit himself. Runny has seen better days. One ear is bandaged with a bloody scarf and one leg is gone, replaced by a wooden one. As one by one, the characters in the book reveal themselves, Eamon, his friends, and the other travelers bask in wonder. Flackwell has prepared a feast for Barley Day to which all are invited. Everything seems perfect until it is time to serve the trifle, when Phineas the Fox announces that Barley Day is not just for feasting. It is also for hunting. Bing, the Builder Bear, then storms into the dining room, his awesome hammer in hand, looking for a victim. Thus, Barley Day turns dark and terrible as our trio of young heroes must now set off on a run for their lives.
I loved this book! While it may sound, at first, whimsical, it isn’t. It’s a fairy tale gone mad with no happy endings in sight. The characters of Eamon, Mark, and Caroline are incredibly well drawn and it is hard not to become invested in their fates. The story is full of secrets waiting to be revealed, both about Eamon’s past and about what really happened on a Barley Day so long before. Winterset Hollow is a real page-turner and I couldn’t put it down. For a first novel, author Durham has penned an astonishing read, one I know I will be compelled to pick it up and read again and again. It’s just one of those books that has so many layers and carries such a powerful message that you know each time you read it, you’ll learn something new.
Winterset Hollow is highly recommended for fans of dark fantasy, horror, and magical realism.
Oh, and, P.S. – I love the cover!!!!