Where the Dark Stands Still / A.B. Poranek / Book Review


Liska Radost would do anything to get rid of her magic. Magic is dangerous. She knows that better than anyone else. If anyone found out about her magic, she would be driven from the village (at best). But if she loses control of her magic... Well, that's never gone well before. And it's only getting worse.

Which is why Liska finds herself heading into the Leszy's forest.

Only those who have to travel through the woods dare to cross into it. The woods is full of demons more than willing to kill those who enter. Nobody would dare to seek out the warden of the woods himself. But Liska needs something that he has: the power to grant wishes. She wants to be rid of the curse of her magic, and he'll grant this wish... if she gives him a year of servitude first. And living beneath the canopy of the demon woods won't be easy, especially with a demon as her master.



I think this book wanted to be darker than it was. In some ways, it feels a little bit fairytale bland. But even though it doesn't reach its ultimate dark potential, it has a lot of strong points. This spirit forest is brimming with dark malevolence, and I adore that. No traveler is passing through unscathed.


World of Demons There's little I like more than a creepy forest, and this forest is full of all kinds of wandering spirits. Floating lights that lure travelers from the path. Water demons waiting to pull you to a murky demise. Swamp beings with grasping hands. Antlered wardens who need offerings to pave your way to safe passage. This book is full of demonic energy, in the best way possible.

Patriarchal Pushback This book isn't necessarily concerned with the subjugation of women... but it definitely doesn't ignore the ways the powers that be have kept women "in their place." This is a world that was once full of magic. In the present age, magic has, outside of the spirit woods, fallen mostly out of sight. The Church has come in to take the place of ancient magics, and all magic is forbidden--especially when exhibited by women, since women are, supposedly, less able to control their magic. These particularly sexed ideas ring true to history, and I appreciate that nod, even in a world that is very much fantasy. Especially because the strongest characters in this book are women, in their various shapes and sizes and forms.

Insidious Twist No spoilers! I'm not like that. But this book has such a well-timed and horrific twist in it that I can't help but compliment it. I didn't see it coming, but it makes perfectly horrible sense. And I really, really appreciate the dark turn this somewhat-fairytale-esque story takes with it.


I didn't hate Liska... but she is a little bit bland. There's nothing that really makes her stand out. She's not quite an archetype, and she's not exactly flat. She's just not particularly interesting, in the way that a fairytale heroine might not be particularly interesting. She's just going about her life, doing things, and that's that. If you're looking for a passionate, hot-headed, particularly driven character, Liska really isn't it! Bland Liska

This book isn't exactly a cozy fantasy, but it sure does have the pacing of one! That is to say, it's kind of slow and meandering. I really like lingering in this spirit woods full of demons, so I didn't exactly mind it. But somebody looking for that spirit woods to be full of action and gore won't find that. Slow Pacing

There is ultimately a plot to this book... but boy does it take a long time to get there. For a lot of the book, it feels aimless in the way that a fairytale is. Things are happening. There are some character goals and motivations, but nobody seems too particularly bothered about getting things done quickly. And in this case, there actually is something pressing about to take place. I just wish some tension had been brought up earlier, to give this book a bit more in the stakes department. There are ultimately high (incredibly high!) stakes... but it sure does take a long time to find out what they are. Plotlessness



Fans of Martine Leavitt's Keturah and Lord Death will like this new world of bargains and counter-bargains. Those who loved Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty will like this rotting mansion in forbidden territory.


Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Date: February 27, 2024
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this book despite the pacing. I love a good twist, especially ones that you don't see coming. Great review!

  2. I love the cover of this one, and that magic forest setting sounds cool. Too bad about the slow pacing.

  3. I would struggle with a book if I didn't fully embrace the main character. This sounds like a story where you really have to care about the characters as well. I loved the cover though

  4. Great review! I have a hard time connecting with bland main characters. I’m glad that you enjoyed this book however. Have a great weekend!

  5. Interesting about the pacing. I've seen some cozy fantasy around lately and I'm so intrigued.

    I love the idea of the church coming in and replacing the old ways. Stories like that always appeal to me. The conflict between pagan or the old ways and the new.

  6. Loved the review. This sounds good.

  7. Horrific twist? Oh see now you got me, now you got me

  8. The plotlessness but bug me. That cover is beautiful though.

  9. The plot of the book gives me fairy tale vibes, and I love the setting of the creepy forest filled with demons. However, I'm not sure I could get through it with the slow pacing and bland protagonist.


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