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Zaria Fierce & the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett

Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest (Volume 1) - Keira Gillett, Eoghan Kerrigan

Zaria and her family recently moved to Norway and Zaria has made a few friends already and is enjoying learning the myths and legends of Norway. One day on the way to school, she comes across Olaf the river troll who threatens to eat her. She counteroffers with a feast to be delivered in three days time. He lets her pass. However, she doesn’t hold up her end of the bargain and she finds there are consequences. Pretty soon, she and her friends are embarking on a quest to save a friend, Christoffer, who was taken captive by Olaf.

This was quite a fun children’s book that I think will appeal to many adults as well. First, I really like the set up. We’re in Norway so we have the great frozen forests and water ways. Then there’s Zaria, a female non-Caucasian lead in a fantasy story. Lastly, Zaria made a mistake in choosing to break her deal with the river troll Olaf, which sets this whole adventure in motion.

Zaria gathers up her allies (friends of Christoffer’s) and one of them has a mysterious magical device (a star gazer) that can pause time, allowing them to head off on their quest without alerting their parents. With Aleks, Filip, and Geirr, Zaria heads off into the Norwegian wilderness. And I’ll just tuck my one little quibble in here – Zaria is the only female character for much of the book, tho eventually we do get an elf lord’s wife and some nameless female warriors and the mention of a Queen Helena. I would have liked a few more female characters.

Pretty soon, they come across a winter wyvern (Ooooooo!) named Norwick and his human-like friend Hector, who is one of the elfvolken. Zaria and the boys aren’t too sure how much to trust Hector but Zaria has formed a bond with Norwick and they elect to travel with them for now. Without getting spoilery, the author pulls in trolls and an the Wild Hunt! Yes! I love stories of the Wild Hunt and the thought of trolls riding the Wild Hunt is enough to send shivers up my spine!

There’s plenty of dashing about and trying to save one another and trickery and defiance and a bit of regret and swearing to make it all right again. Yeah. It was good. It’s a great adventure with the boys and Zaria helping each other along the way. I really like that Zaria owns up to her mistakes throughout the book and that her mistakes also make her human and real. There’s also real camaraderie between her and the boys and she also does her best to treat her allies with respect. The ending had Zaria in a tough position and she had to make a choice. Such a tough one! But now things are set up perfectly for Book 2.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Michelle Carpenter was great. She has this perfect voice for young Zaria and light Norwegian accents for all the boys. I loved her gravelly voices for the trolls. She also had rich voices for the elves as described in the book. She also did a great job of getting the characters’s emotions across to the listener. Great performance!