Wildsmith by Liz Flanagan

Publication Date: 2 February 2023

The Blurb

When war threatens her beloved city, Rowan and her mother must flee to the Dark Forest, meeting Grandpa and his white wolf Arto for the first time. Though she misses her father, Rowan makes new friends – including a trio of powerful witches. When she rescues a baby dragon from poachers, she discovers the secret of her own identity: Rowan is a wildsmith! Fostering a whole clutch of dragons, the summer speeds by. But when danger threatens, Rowan and her grandpa must call on all their friends for help…

The Review

A delightful start to a new fantasy series for younger readers, fizzing with imagination, curiosity and daring deeds.

Set against a backdrop of war, Rowan is both amazed and angered to meet the grandfather she never knew existed, and discover the magic she had only ever thought existed in books is real. Her natural affinity with animals seems to extend to the mythical beings that make the dark forest their home, a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by her grandfather.

We see her slowly come to terms with how quickly her life changed because of the war edging ever closer to her home city, and her pain at being separated from her father. Quick thinking and with a huge heart, Rowan is determined to protect the dragons that come under threat from poachers from the enemy army, looking to harness alleged properties from teh majestic beasts to give their army the edge.

While perfect for younger readers, there are serious topics mentioned that deserve wider discussion beyond the story, which would make this a brilliant class read aloud.

I can’t wait to see Rowan come into her wildsmith powers and see what she achieves with her new friends.

Great for fans of:

The Guest Post by Liz Flanagan – The Magic Of Illustration

In this blog I describe how magical it is to see your words brought to life through illustration. Plus a sketching exercise to help your writing…

I knew when I started writing Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest that it was aimed at children around seven or eight years of age – I had to tap back into my memories of time to help create the curious, climbing character Rowan. But I never dreamt this story would be brought to such magical life through illustrations like these.

Designer Becky Chilcott and publisher Hazel Holmes commissioned Joe Todd-Stanton to create the colour artwork for the cover and black-and-white illustrations dotted throughout the story – and the most gorgeous chapter openers! I find Joe’s artwork to be quite extraordinary. I don’t know how he does it, but there is such emotion, delicacy and atmosphere in every image.

This picture of Rowan and Arto the wolf just melts my heart. Rowan has to flee her city and travel to stay with the grandfather she never even knew she had. She’s feeling upset, fearful and displaced, but then she meets the white wolf Arto who lives with Grandpa, and suddenly she wonders if this new life might not be so bad after all. Rowan and Arto form an immediate bond – and this artwork shows it so beautifully. I have a collie pup who likes to put her chin on my knee – so it’s a very familiar position to me. Joe has captured everything so perfectly here.

I love being outside in wild places – I find it essential for my wellbeing and daily happiness. I tried to describe that in the story when Rowan first discovers the dark forest. But Joe Todd-Stanton conveys the feeling without words, in this beautiful image of Rowan heading off on her own into the trees.

When it comes to the three powerful witches in the story, I admit, I was first inspired by a visual artist in my turn. Photographer Bella Kotak creates incredible images which combine myth and magic and the natural world. I made a Pinterest board of her work when I first started writing Wildsmith. So it’s a lovely progression now to see how Joe has imagined the three witches, each with her own distinctive appearance and affinity. The witches are just exquisite here:

I could not be more proud or delighted with the finished collaboration that is Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest. It is the work of a whole team of people, everyone at UCLan Publishing as well as Joe and me. And I hope that young readers who are just beginning to feel confident in their reading will be able to lose themselves in this story world, in the mutual enchantment between image and text.

Writing tip: it can help to sketch out a character or a scene before you start writing. I’m no artist, but I did sketch out the layout of Grandpa’s house and the stable yard.

  • Try sketching your character and then annotating this with visual description before turning it into actual sentences
  • Try mapping out the place where the story happens, then use this knowledge in your story – not everything will end up in the finished piece, but you will feel really confident about your story world!

Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, is published by UCLan Publishing on 2nd February 2023, £7.99

Huge thanks to Liz for such an insightful guest post, and to Antonia and UCLan Publishing for sending me a copy of Wildsmith and inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s