Barclay Thorne is happy with his very uneventful life as an apprentice to his town’s mushroom farmer. His parents were killed by a Beast when he was seven and he’s been mostly on his own ever since. But one afternoon in the Woods looking for a specific mushroom, he runs into Viola, a Lore Keeper. These are people who bond with Beasts of various sizes, and use their lore magic. During an encounter with a Beast, Barclay accidentally bonds with one of them, and is banished from his town.
Forced to leave, he goes in search of someone who can remove the bond so he can return to his life. But it’s more difficult than he anticipated. He will have to pass a tricky and long exam to prove he is strong enough for the bond to be removed, while living in a strange new world and facing down people who want to steal his Beast for themselves, harming him in the process. And the longer he stays, the more his bond with his Beast deepens. Will he want to leave, when this is all over?
This is a fun read, with a vividly imagined world and a cool magic system. It’s easy to feel for poor Barclay, even if he isn’t all that interesting to begin with. He wants to make his dead parents proud, and live a life that was expected of him, and it makes sense that he resist the new world that’s been put before him. There’s also some cool twists with who he should trust and enough moments of peril to keep you turning the pages. I imagine kids would really enjoy these stories.