Reviews /

Zo and the Forest of Secrets

Authored by Alake Pilgrim
Published by Knights Of

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Alake Pilgrim’s debut, middle-grade fantasy novel, Zo and the Forest of Secrets, is a thrilling adventure set in the Caribbean. In the story, Zo and Adri are thrown into an electrifying world full of peril at every turn.  As Zo and Adri navigate hair-raising monsters and people who are not as they seem, they work to uncover the mysteries of the forest of secrets.  Will they emerge from the forest alive or will they fall prey to one of the terrifying beasts that roams the forest? With threats at every turn, the reader is soon drawn into this fantasy world, willing the characters to battle the threats of the hostile environment in which they find themselves and to seek safety and refuge.

The terrifying monsters that Pilgrim brings to life in the novel fill the reader with dread and also bring an air of mystery.  What are these creatures? Where have they come from?  The reader can also feel the influence of African folklore in references to Anansi the spider whose similar character is also up to mischief in Zo and the Forest of Secrets. In doing a search, I also discovered that the name Zo (Zoe, Zoey) is a name of Greek origin meaning ‘life’ and, in a Christian sense, eternal life.  Adri, on the other hand, is a Hindi name meaning ‘rock’ and refers to a person who can control others easily.  The themes of life, perseverance and friendship shine through in this debut novel. Perhaps the namesakes of the main characters will influence further novels about Zo and Adri?

Pilgrim shines in her sensational descriptions of the local flora, fauna and regional delicacies.  The book provides a wonderful opportunity for children from this area of the world to see themselves reflected in a book, whilst also opening up new ideas for those who are not familiar with the culture and customs.  Whilst I do enjoy fantasy novels, I feel that the pace of Zo and the Forest of Secrets is somewhat frantic at times. The story is jam-packed with thrilling action and this sometimes left me with gaps (as a reader) in terms of the visual imagery of the setting or the physical and emotional descriptions of characters’ experiences.  This being said, I feel that this would be a welcomed read to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre, especially those who enjoy thrilling, fast-paced action.

Alake Pilgrim, herself, hails from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She has previously found much success in writing short stories (for both children and adults), winning the regional prize for the Americas in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition twice. This is her first middle grade novel published by Knights Of whose mission is to ‘create quality content for kids’ and to ensure that the voices in children’s publishing are inclusive and diverse.  Zo and the Forest of Secrets would be a lively addition to any library, celebrating the power of diversity in children’s literature and introducing children to electrifying new worlds.