Title: Keepers of the Forest
Published: 21st February 2016
Author: James McNally
A violent cult has invaded the Adirondack Forest, and 11-year-old Chris has become the target of their affection. It will be a summer of terror, because they believe Chris is the key to opening the door to a new world order. And they will stop at nothing to bring their plans to fruition.
An intricate story with lots of twists and turns leading you down the rabbit hole. A wild world you are exploring with this one that will keep you on your toes right to the end. There are two main characters that the book revolves around – 11-year-old Chris and soon to be swimming coach Brian. The cult comes into focus more along with Chris’ storyline.
Brian has just been dumped and is looking for a change of scenery. He finds this in a job offer from friend Nancy. She tells him to go to her aunt and help out as a swimming coach for the summer. A way to find his centre again and to give himself some focus. Little did he know that taking her up on this offer would turn his world upside down in the most craziest of ways.
Chris, along with his older brother Scott, have been told that they will be spending the summer with their aunt and uncle in Tupper Lake, Adirondack while there parents go to Europe for their fathers job. Now their mother is a bit of a strange one. She doesn’t (or should I say ‘does not’) like contractions. She speaks in a very direct manor and comes off as very cold. With everything that is about to happen to those boys during the summer I doubt she will be able to give them one-ounce of comfort. It’s while on this holiday of sorts that Chris finds out he will be taking swimming lessons. This is how he first meets Brian, though not in a happy way. Due to Chris trying to save face with some other boys he makes the mistake of saying he can swim. So when asked to jump in he does, and then just as quickly sinks to the bottom of the pool. Now this is where you would think Brian would jump straight in to rescue him but he waits a few minutes due to being told beforehand that only lifeguards are meant to dive in to save people not the teachers. Glad he doesn’t listen but he almost doesn’t get him out in time and when he does he has to give him CPR. This is sort of a mirrored image of what is to come later on so you can see why it’s needed but still a dramatic way for a friendship to be formed. From this moment on Chris sees Brian as his saviour, someone to look up to and someone to keep an eye on him. Which is good as he’s about to be put in a lot of danger and will need someone to be looking for him.
Chris has been chosen by a cult, called the Keepers of the Forest, to become a vessel for a dryad to rise again. This isn’t the first time a boy has been chosen before but from the way Chris acts throughout you get the impression that they might have found who they are looking for. You have the leader of the Cult Crispus, Sherry who will be taking care of the chosen and then the muscle Mason, Ted and Vincent. Each man is a bit nastier than the one before. This is where the story takes a darker turn because the only way to get the chosen one is to take him, so his aunt, uncle and brother might become a problem in that equation. Once taken though Sherry tries and fails to explain what the Cult is about and that what they are doing is for the greater good. She really does believe in what she has been told but her thoughts slowly start to change when she finds out what the men she is working with are really capable of. Too little too late really, the wheels have already been set in motion for the big final at the end. You can slow it down but you can’t stop it.
When Chris doesn’t come back for his one on one swimming lesson with Brian he gets a feeling that foul play is afoot. More so when he recalls Chris mentioning that he felt he was being watched. So Brian along with his friend Nancy, who soon turns into something more, struggle to find proof that the boys are in trouble. All they can go on is a feeling until they have proof. With no one to listen they have to put their trust in an unlikely ally to have a chance of getting the boys back safely. It was clear coming closer to the dramatic ending though that things would start to come to ahead for the people in the cult but man does it shift the feel of the book. It’s a race against time, and the dryad, to get Chris to safety but Brian will do what ever it takes to try.
There are moments near the conclusion though where you are a bit lost as to why something is happening. Three random lads in the woods seemingly have no purpose to the story until one-mayor thing changes. This is where the story goes dark and you hope that at least a few will make it out alive.
The drama slowly builds up throughout the story to one hell of a climatic ending. So sad with it though, wish I knew what happened to everyone else aswell and that it had gone a little differently. Would have been nice to see what happened to Scott, Brian and Nancy instead of just Chris but I guess that just makes it more intense. The story hasn’t really ended its only just begun.
4 out of 5 stars
I received this ARC from the author for my honest review.