Review of Herrick's End (The Neath #1) by T.M. Blanchet
The first book in Blanchet's Neath trilogy offers a bizarre dark underworld; cruelty and revenge; an unlikely hero; and heartwarming bravery and unexpected bonds.
In Blanchet's young adult fantasy debut, Herrick's End, Ollie's only friend Gwen has disappeared. He has no idea where she's gone, but he thinks her recent black eye, edginess, and her brooding jerk of a boyfriend have something to do with it.
He searches for her, then receives a mysterious note: "Still looking for your friend? I know where she is." A strange fellow offers to lead Ollie to Gwen. Ollie pushes down his panic and decides to push on bravely (and possibly foolishly), determined to find and save Gwen.
But the trail Ollie finds himself on leads to darkness and danger in a mysterious underworld. The land is odd, troubling, and filled with unexpected magic--as well as brutal vengeance. It defies much of what he has known as fact and reality up above. And, alarmingly, a powerful local legend has been expecting him.
He had been hanging his hopes on some fool notion of "fairness." He would find a way out, because he deserved to find a way out.... It wasn't until he watched a gaseous frog sever an innocent man's arm for no particular reason that Ollie realized: There was no fairness here. There was no justice. Those were quaint, forgotten notions.
Cruel forces wield ruthless power in the dark land below--and those in charge might destroy him if he doesn't figure out an escape, or at least find a little help in this unforgiving place.
When Ollie drums up a glimmer of hope in a devastating prison of a situation, he begins the trajectory of becoming an unlikely hero who might just save everyone in the end.
The story is funny, sometimes grotesque, at other times sweet, and full of surprises. With zombified children; curses and prophecies; domestic abuse and revenge; bizarre creatures; impossible choices with enormous consequences; struggles with body image; and budding love.
I love this beautiful cover and loved how much heart Blanchet's story offered.
I received a prepublication digital edition of this book (published spring 2022) courtesy of Tiny Fox Press and NetGalley.
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Herrick's End is the first book in Blanchet's Neath trilogy. I can't wait to read the second book in the series, Herrick's Lie, which is scheduled for publication in spring 2023.