In “The Wild Huntsboys,” Martin Stewart makes sure we understand that fairies are not beautiful, kind, generous magical beings who grant wishes. There is no fairy godmother that will provide a ballgown and carriage. Rather, if you make one misstep, you might be hunted down and killed in a manner almost too gruesome to consider. Those are the fairies that Luka must confront after he fails to do the one thing his sister asked of him before she was evacuated during a war.
All she asked was that he put out a saucer of milk and bread to feed the fairies. And to be fair, Luka meant to do that. But just as he was setting it out, a bomb fell, and he was so angry, so sad, that he threw the offering out and it landed on the side of a tree outside his sister’s window. Because of his lapse, he and his sister are in danger. So are the two boys who have taken shelter in his home. His mother is away for work, so she won’t see what he and the other two boys will have to do to try to protect their home and save his sister’s life.
This story is fairly dark. There is a war going on, food is scarce, police are not kind figures, especially because the three boys are doing things that are not legal in their quest to save themselves. There is also a gang of boys who are truly frightening. But we see the three boys, who start out as practically enemies, become a close-knit group of family. Max, the oldest and biggest of the boys, has lost his parents because of the war and has been sent to live in Luka’s house now that Luka’s sister Ellie has been evacuated to a safer location. Hazel, on the other hand, was living in a tower, with all kinds of stolen technology that he stole from government facilities. He was forced to flee his tower when Luka unwittingly brought the officials there. He managed to flee with some of his technology, and he decided that because it was Luka’s fault he lost his home, he should move in with Luka.
But when the three boys find out that they have three nights to fix the problem with the fairies before they are all slaughtered, they bond. They each find strengths that, when combined, make them unbeatable. That plus help from a very unexpected source.
The story flows smoothly and the plot is intriguing. The author’s messages of loyalty, love, and team work are important and just what middle grade readers need to learn. With the ending, the author has opened the door for a sequel which I, for one, will want to read.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Viking Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.