The Wild Huntsboys
by Martin Stewart
Read from library copy.
The deprivations of wartime London mix with the modern era and dark fairies.
12-year-old Luka has to go alone to the train station in the city of Bellum to send his beloved little sister Elena (both described as olive skinned) off to safety in the country, since his mother is working and his father died in the war. As she’s leaving, Elena makes Luka promise to put milk and bread out in a bowl for the fairies every week. Luka doesn’t believe in the fairies and only agrees to please his sister, who cares so much about it.
Then, an air raid comes just as he’s putting the offering out. Startled and hurt by the fairies’ lack of protection, he tosses the food out into the yard. Unbeknownst to him, the fairies – including fierce warrior Jem – are watching. They take Luka’s actions as a grave insult, and send Jem to punish both Elena and Luka in the traditional, gruesome way, in three days’ time.
Luka, however, is more concerned with the world he knows about, one where an angry displaced boy from the North, Max, is placed into Elena’s room as soon as she’s left, food and electricity are rationed and internet and cellular access has a curfew. On top of that, Luka accidentally alerts the Wardens to the secret hiding place of another boy, the weird and brilliant Hazel. (Hazel is Black, but Mr. Stewart, who is white, includes some African-specific details for him, and thanks the person who helped him get them right in the acknowledgements.) That leads Hazel to decide to move in with Luka, too.
Once the threat is made plain by the appearance of the vengeful Jem in their midst, all three boys scramble to protect the house before the deadline, a task that will require specific things that are also in high demand for the war effort. They’ll have to avoid the fairies (but if you look closely at the cover, you’ll see that Jem is handcuffed to Luka), the Wardens, and a fierce and territorial gang of kids called the Junkyard Knights. Meanwhile, we also watch as little cursed Elena gets sicker and sicker…
Elena is sidelined for most of the story, leaving most of the action to the boys. She does her own part to save the day, but I would have liked to see a little more of her. Still, this was a very impressive book overall. The print book itself has larger type and smaller margins than usual, giving it the feel of an old Hardy Boys book, despite the modern setting.
Overall, this is a dark story that is nevertheless strong with the building of trust and friendships and sparkles with humor. I’d give it to fans of the Magisterium series.