An epic quest, strange creatures, and an ancient wood full of sinister mysteries. Join Eliot on his mission to find and destroy the scarecrow.
In the valley of Gal-Braith, a tradition has existed for as long as anyone can remember. It is the tradition of the kohlas: a journey all boys begin on their seventh birthday. A quest to find and destroy the scarecrow.
Born from an agreement between the people of the valley generations back and the low energy of the Dark Wood, no one remembers how the kohlas began and few question if it should continue.
Aided only by a strange group of woodsmen, Eliot begins his kohlas like all the others. But a seed planted deep inside him by his estranged mother makes his journey different from the rest.
CW: this book contains mentions of explicit violence and gore, and moderate mentions of death and sexual abuse.
Eliot is a boy and just like all boys in Gal-Braith he will soon become a man, just as soon as he completes his quest to find and destroy the scarecrow. All boys must start their kohlas at seven years old, and all of them will return home profoundly changed by this experience. But Eliot is a boy unlike any other, and the kohlas may leave him changed most of all…
The Scarecrow Hunters is a profoundly dark fantasy that slowly unravels much like a fever dream. Following Eliot in the final stages of his quest, as he slowly starts unpeeling the layers of his consciousness and realising that there is more to the kohlas than he had always been led to believe, we are thrown deep into the Dark Wood with him, following the mysterious huntsmen and chasing a terrible scarecrow.
The setting is absolutely spot on. The Dark Wood and all its surroundings are absolutely chilling, dark and scary. I could easily put myself in Eliot’s shoes, imagining what it would be like to be thrown in there at only seven years old, with no one but the two dark huntsmen for company.
The narrative follows Eliot’s point of view, alternating his present-day experiences on the hunt, the nightmares he starts having and his long-forgotten memories slowly coming to the surface. His inner conflict and confusion are very clear to see, as he struggles to come to terms with the reality of his quest, and were by far the most fascinating part of the book.
By contrast, the lore and worldbuilding were slightly underwhelming for me. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into them as they are very broad and complex, but at the same time, I found myself being confused for most of the book. While I could easily accept it towards the beginning, since we’re following Eliot and he himself is confused, it became much harder to accept nearing the end as loose threads were supposed to come together. There is an extensive appendix at the end which again shows the impressive work of the author, but I would have found it easier to follow parts of the story if some more information had been clearly laid out in the main narrative.
Overall, The Scarecrow Hunters is a dark and engaging read, perfect for lovers of dark fantasy and anyone who doesn’t live near a dark wood and a good start to the series. There is some rather explicit content, especially towards the end, so this would be better aimed at older or more mature readers rather than younger ones.
This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery on 26th February 2022.