“The Unbridled Woods” is an illustrated book for middle grade children, centering on twins Samantha and Matthew who live in Mississippi, circa 1845. The twin’s father, John, is a respected judge; their mother, Ellen, comes from money and spends most if her time organizing charity events and shopping, pretty much what was expected of women of means at that time. In the woods one day, the twins find a beautiful locket and scarf, both bearing the initials L.I.A. It is there that they discover Princess Lia, who comes from a world at war and has been separated her from her family in order to protect them.
Sebastian, an evil wizard who can change form at will, poses as an old Frenchman determined to take Lia away. Eventually Lia is hidden with Jamie and Kayla, the twin’s servants. Jamie knows three men who also are practitioners of magic and they help to resolve Lia’s predicament.
Nosser’s decision to set the story in 1845 Mississippi is an interesting one. The words “servants” and “slaves” are used to describe Jamie and Kayla—and their home—referred to as “the shack”, is shown in an illustration as run down, with barefoot children running about in worn out clothes. This depiction provoke an explanation to children who have not yet learned about slavery in their history or social studies class.
Some of the book’s dialogue is simplistic, even for a middle grade reading level, with too much repetition. On the upside, the story is enriched by Lauren Leslie’s illustrations, which are quite to be distinctive in detail and style. Lia’s back story could serve as material for a sequel, since she informs the twins she has the power to bring them to her world.
Reviewed by Joe Del Priore for IndieReader
The Unbridled Woods