Barclay Thorne is an eleven-year-old orphan growing up in a small village called Dullshire. He is apprenticed to a mushroom farmer, and he puts all that he has into his chosen profession. Life is hard for an orphan boy in Dullshire, and there are a lot of rules to follow, many which are silly or excessive. But one rule he is sure to follow: Never go into the Woods. The Woods is where the Beasts are. Beasts are dangerous. And Beasts have magic, which is also dangerous.
So, of course Barclay ends up in the Woods, because this would be a very boring story if he did not. And Barclay unwillingly becomes bonded to a Beast. Bonding with a Beast gives the human magical powers, which is definitely against the rules. So he travels to a place to try to get rid of the Beast so he can go home.
A lot of thought has gone into the world building here. Some of the names of things, especially places, are very silly, but that adds to the charm. There are different categories of Beasts with different abilities, and some of them are very clever. (They kind of remind me of Pokémon a bit… wait, that’s what the author’s website says, so it’s not just me!) There are interesting characters who I would like to know more about, and there’s a twist I did not see coming! We also only see a small part of this world, and there are new and exciting things that we are given a glimpse of.
There are male and female characters, but no hint of romance, which is nice. (I mean, there could be with some secondary characters if you squint a little, but that’s just me guessing and really has nothing to do with the story.) There is one part of the story that I thought was different. *Spoilers ahead* At one point, the characters are taking a written test. They are given a pin to wear that will glow red if the person cheats. Barclay is one of the very few who doesn’t cheat, and he realizes that that’s all the pin did – tells if the person cheated. It was never said that cheating was frowned upon, or was wrong, or would be penalized. And that makes Barclay (and the reader) reevaluate how he looks at his situation.