While this book is classed as a middle-grade fantasy it will easily be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Deep in the forest lives a 12-year-old boy named Bo, along with his pet fox Nix. Abandoned by his parents, an old man named Mads has taken him in. Mads has tasked Bo with the daily ritual of spreading gold-red powder around an old tree before sunset (with no explanation as to why he must do it). When Bo becomes distracted and misses one evening of powder sprinkling, his whole world comes crashing down. Now Shadow creatures are gaining strength, magic is spreading through the land like an evil curse, and a wolf is hunting him. Bo must find the stars which were stolen long ago and return them to the sky in order to restore peace to the land.
While this book is classed as a middle-grade fantasy, it will easily be enjoyed by readers of all ages. With messages of friendship, chosen family and learning to trust in yourself, it is delivered in a subtle and heart-warming way.
Every character has a purpose to build the story and move the narrative forward at an engaging pace. Character back-stories are woven into the tale in a way that feels natural and not just a data dump. This results in a deeper meaning and understanding of each character’s personality and actions. It was a refreshing change to have villains with valid reasons for their actions, which is often lacking in stories for younger readers. To allow a reader to feel empathy for a villain rather than a flimsy reason for inflicting revenge is something that could benefit all genres.
One of Plozza’s strengths is her ability to world-build in a way that doesn’t detract from the narrative. Her description of the world around Bo doesn’t slow down the pace of the story and almost feels like another character in its own right. The same applies to the integration of magic. It felt like a believable aspect of the world, not just an afterthought or gimmick.
The Boy, The Wolf and the Stars is a sweet story that had me feeling invested and empathetic towards the characters and their journey. It is a lovely, magical tale that is reminiscent of childhood fantasy movie classics The Never Ending Story (1984) and Labyrinth (1986).
A must read for middle-grade readers.
Reviewed by Jessica Incoll
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: October 2020