The Thickety: A Path Begins Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Thickety: A Path Begins

When Kara Westfall discovers her magical powers in a society that fears, shuns, and punishes magic, Kara must decide how to approach her newfound powers. Kara Westfall was five years old the night her baby brother Taff was born. The following morning, Kara's mother was convicted and hung for witchcraft – and for killing her best friend Abby and Abby's husband. Her island village's religion warns harshly against the dangers of witchcraft, and harshly punishes witches. After his wife's death, Kara's father often loses himself to her memory, and all three of them are poorly treated by villagers, some of whom fear Kara herself is a witch. They cheat her and shun her; yet her worst enemy is Grace, the daughter of Fen'de Stone, the village's leader, who takes delight in secretly torturing her while acting the role of an earthly angel towards others.
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When Kara is twelve, she discovers that she is actually a witch. She has always been good with animals, but then a strange bird leads her into the Thickety (a thick forest which must constantly be cut back by Clearers to prevent it from overtaking the village), and she finds a black tome there. She thinks it is her mother's spellbook. She also briefly encounters Sordyr, the forest demon; frightened, she leaves the Thickety with the tome. She slowly discovers that she can “collect” animals in the spellbook and then summon them at will to do her bidding. While talking with a friend of hers who is a Clearer, for example, a frightening forest creature comes out, and she is able to tell it to go away. That night, she discovers an image of it in the front of the tome, and when she intuitively reads the strange script among the lines, the animal comes to her window.

Kara is both frightened and fascinated. She “collects” more animals and the tome becomes heavier; as she does so, the tome becomes more difficult to put away. An encounter with Grace makes it clear, however, that Grace, too, is a witch. And Grace wants Kara's spellbook. Some boys also come to the property at night, and become suspicious when Kara drives them away with magic from a distance. Fortunately, Kara's mother's old friend Constance, who has been distant but occasionally kind, sees Kara with the tome and realizes what is happening. She takes the tome before the boys come back with town officials, and before Grace attempts to steal it.

During the five days Constance has the book, Kara realizes the negative and addictive effects the book is having on her. Constance also explains a few things to Kara about the book, including the dangers of casting spells using the last page, which traps the caster inside for eternal torture. Constance makes her promise to destroy it, but even so, Kara finds she can't. Then Grace corners her twice, and it becomes obvious how much she wants the tome, and how dangerous she would be with it. Kara knows she is in danger of blackmail if she doesn't give Grace the tome, but Grace will be an enormous danger if she has it. At this point, she does try to destroy the tome, but burning it doesn't work.

Grace finds her chance for blackmail during a 10-day village festival. On the last night (the village's biggest yearly festival, a bit like Halloween), Grace leads Taff away as bait to Aunt Abby's old, broken-down house. Kara, as a protective older sister, follows. Neither girl trusts the other; by the end of the night, Kara has unintentionally killed Grace's sidekick in order to defend Taff, Grace has the tome, Grace has inflicted Taff with a disease that supposedly only she can cure, and Kara has been thrown into the town well for witchcraft. Because of Taff, Kara cannot tell Grace's father about Grace's witchcraft, and Kara's Clearer friend is thrown into the well the following day for trying to save her.

Before her friend is thrown into the well, Kara has a vision of the night her mother died. Her mother had been teaching Abby spells, but it has become dangerous for Abby because she is becoming addicted to the magic and its power. On that night, when Abby's new husband sees her losing herself and tries to take the spellbook from her, Abby goes crazy and kills him. She instantly regrets it – so much that shortly after Kara's mother arrives, Abby casts the last spell in her book, dooming herself to eternal torture. Kara's mother goes into labor and gives birth. Having been on the scene at the time of Abby's death, she is of course blamed, and she tells everyone to follow what she knows the “official” version will be to help them avoid blame – that she is an awful person, a witch who killed her best friend. She knows she cannot change her fate in the eyes of the council no matter what she says, and neither can her husband. She also helps this story will encourage Kara to avoid magic and therefore danger from the villagers when Kara discovers her powers.

After a few days of torture for Kara and little food or water for either of them, Kara and her friend spend three days straight with no visits, no food, and no water. Finally, Fen'de Stone comes to release them and ask for their help. Grace has gone crazy with the tome. They come with him, and he gives them food and water, and then brings them to a house outside the village where those still free from Grace's control are staying. While there, Kara learns that the tome belonged to Abby, not her mother. Her father has her mother's spellbook, and gives it to her. She discovers that by summoning a particular creature from the Thickety, she can use her mother's tome to cure her brother.

Most are planning to escape Grace by sea the following day. But Kara despite the villagers' cruelty towards her, she wants to save those under Grace's control. She rides a horse she recently cured into town to faces her. People have become like zombies under Grace's control (though that word is not used to describe them), and the things they do are for Grace's amusement. Grace uses her magic to maneuver Kara into the schoolhouse so that Kara can see their schoolmaster's new enchanted attitude towards magic, and Grace's sidekick, who Grace has magicked into an odd, not-quite-right life. Kara tries to warn Grace of the danger she faces by allowing the magic to control her as she is, and of the danger of the last spell. Kara discovers how to destroy Grace's spellbook and does so, but Grace has ripped out the last spell and casts it, refusing to believe Kara's warning until what's left of the spellbook's cover actually swallows her up.

People return to normal, and while some still choose to leave, others stay to rebuild. Things are going well until Kara discovers what Grace's last spell was. Her “father” is no longer her father in spirit, but a great anti-witch leader returned. He has arranged her stoning as a witch. As people begin to throw stones and Kara begins to run with her brother following, she discovers she can summon her animals without a spellbook. She summons the same horse who carried her to face Grace, lifts her brother, mounts, and rides into the only place left to hide – the frightening Thickety. It is implied that the second book in the series will continue from here.
Best part of story, including ending: Kara must learn, little by little, exactly what aspects of magic have caused her society to react as it has. She also must realize that although she has magical powers, that in and of itself does not make her evil; it's what she does with her magic and by not allowing it to control her that she can nonetheless be a good person.

Best scene in story: When Kara has her vision in the well about her mother, she realizes that her mother was a good person in spite of her magic. She begins to realize that magic can be used for good or for evil. Previously, she had experienced its dangers when Abby's grimoire nearly takes control of her irrevocably and makes her begin to act unlike her normal self. But through the vision, she can see that her mother had been able to safely use and control magic for good purposes for many years, and that it was only by succumbing to its dangers that Abby met the end she did. She also can begin to see that things should not be seen in the strict black-and-white terms of the village's leaders.

Opinion about the main character: Kara is a caring and compassionate character (much more so than many people would be) in spite of her neighbors' cruelty.

The review of this Book prepared by Carol Lambert a Level 5 American Goldfinch scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Thickety: A Path Begins

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 30%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 30%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 20% Tone of book    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   fantasy world/fantasy past Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Kid's book (ages 7-14) Horror story?    -   Yes Horror plotlets    -   the witch chased me on her broomstick!

Main Character

Identity:    -   Female Profession/status:    -   student Age:    -   a kid If magical mental powers:    -   can cast many different spells

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed How much dialogue?    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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J.A. White Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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