Little Red Riding Hood meets the Three Little Pigs—literally—in this fairy-tale mashup set in Poland.
Magia lives with her parents, brother, and sister near the Puszcza, a mysterious forest that is greatly feared by villagers—along with the wolves that roam it. Rejecting traditional gender roles, Magia longs to become a woodcutter like Tata. She soon finds more adventure than she bargained for, wandering into the Puszcza alone; caring for a gentle, literate, orphaned wolf cub who also defies convention; battling wits with a bloodthirsty witch; and trying to rescue her family from a terrible enchantment. It emerges that the power-hungry witch holds everyone in thrall—from the little girls she tempts with a red, hooded cape to the three little pigs who just want their mother back—through her manipulation of stories. Although folk tales rely on archetypes, a novel-length fairy-tale fantasy requires more character development than is present here. The only clue to the setting is the sprinkling of Polish words whose origin many young readers may not recognize, with little sense of Polish culture conveyed in other ways. Additionally, neither of the folk tales incorporated into the story is traditionally Polish.
There is a bit too much going on in this convoluted tale, making it difficult for readers to plunge in and fully immerse themselves. (Fantasy. 10-14)