The death of the foxes' ruling oracle, Scythe, bodes ill for the Wraith Mice around Darkwoods and their allies near and far. With the change in leadership, all sides know their uncertain relationship with the foxes will, too soon, erupt into a vicious war. Possessing the ability to melt into the darkness and renowned in warfare, the Wraith Mice rally the squirrel tribes, Ranger Mice, and others to defend their territory--and their very lives. A young one among them, Princess Zuryzel understands the gravity of the situation and rises fearlessly to the challenges of the ruthless invaders. Possessing the traits of a natural leader and wise beyond her years, Zuryzel knows she must follow the difficult path before her. But can she overcome the challenges in time to defeat the hated foxes?
An ambitious story of friendship, heroism, magic, and courage, Darkwoods is sure to be a win with both preteens and young adults alike. The characters are realistic and lovable, and all have their own personalities, a refreshing change from some of the blander teen books available nowadays.
While the flurry of names in the first few pages might confuse readers, all the mentioned animals are reintroduced later and their roles expanded upon, abating any puzzlement. Full of unique creatures such as Wraith Mice (who can turn invisible at will), Oracle foxes under the control of a mind-controlling Blight caused by the evil Serpent, to river otters who hold the sea otters in deep prejudice, Darkwoods has a wonderfully rich array of colourful characters. Princess Zuryzel, a Wraith Mouse, is a natural-born leader who is respected by all her friends and even her enemies. Lady Raven of the Rangers (a mouse band who patrol the northern part of the world) is a fierce warrior and kind friend. Oracle apprentice Fawn struggles with accepting the Blight and is persecuted for her wavering faith in the Serpent. Young river otter Danaray is conflicted over her sister's choice to love a 'selfish' sea otter. Feldspar, a young mouse from the north seeking adventure, finds old friends and makes new ones in the grand city of Pasadagavra.
Darkwoods is also full of action, from outmatched skirmishes to epic battles and guerilla runs, it's stuffed with conflicts. There's also lots of emotional action - between the Oracles, between the otter sisters Anamay and Danaray, and between Zuryzel and all the various characters with whom she comes into contact.
All in all, a good young teen book.