In an alternate late-nineteenth-century America, tensions mount between the First Peoples and the Settlers in the Pacific Northwest where the ancient trees have begun to die of a mysterious blight called Rust. Lucy’s father, a famous ghostologist, has sent her away to boarding school while he investigates the cause of the Rust. When Lucy runs away from boarding school to find him, she discovers that her father has traveled to Devil’s Thumb, a peninsula supposedly haunted by evil spirits, in search of the last Dreamwood tree which may hold the magical cure for the blight. Despite the fact that no one has ever returned from Devil’s Thumb alive, Lucy is determined to find her father and the Dreamwood. With the financial support of a local timber baron and the help of an annoyingly stubborn village boy named Pete, Lucy sets off on the dangerous journey for Devil’s Thumb. But the closer she gets to the Dreamwood, the more she realizes she has underestimated the danger of her quest.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! It is always fun to read a middle grade fantasy that is set neither in the modern day nor a romanticized Middle Ages. I wasn’t sure at first if the alternate history with ghost hunters was going to turn fantasy or more of a steampunk sci-fi. It definitely walked the line in some places, but favored the supernatural. The story was well-written, the characters intricate, and the plot engaging. I highly recommend this new book to fantasy readers. Other books it called to mind for me (for various reasons) include The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, Reckless by Cornelia Funke, Nation by Terry Pratchett, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, and Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver.