As a mordeshoor for the magical village of Whichwood, 13-year-old orphan Laylee is bound by blood "to wash and package the dead destined for the Otherwhere." Thirteen-year-old Alice, from the town of Ferenwood, is tasked through her Surrender ("a magical coming-of-age ceremony") with helping Laylee--and not a second too soon: hard labor and the carelessness of her fellow villagers is draining the life from Laylee.

Whichwood, Tahereh Mafi's companion novel to Furthermore, is as absorbing as (if not more than) its predecessor. A chatty, friendly narrator who knows the characters intimately addresses the reader directly, injecting opinions about what's taking place through informative footnotes, droll asides and cautionary section markers, like "I fear this won't end well." The conversational tone helps ease the darker, more horror-like elements of the book, such as dead spirits wearing the skins of the living, while a dash of humor (said skinsuit "bunched up in all the wrong places") lightens it even more. Mafi's language choices create visually arresting moments, like the beauty of the setting sun: it "stepped down to let the moon slip by." These descriptions further bolster the fanciful setting.

Mafi deftly explores several appealing themes, including the healing power of friendship and the resilience to overcome adversity in her whimsical, Persian-inspired fantasy world. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

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