Persian Necromancer in Tahereh Mafi’s Whichwood

  • TitleWhichwood (Furthermore #2)
  • AuthorTahereh Mafi
  • Genre: Persian, Fantasy, Middle Grade
  • Words to describe: Atmospheric, whimsical, imaginative, magical
  • Publication Date:  November 2017
  • Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
  • Rating: 4/5 stars


I can’t get enough of Tahereh Mafi’s writing.

I LOVED Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore, a colorful and whimsical retelling of Alice in Wonderland. But Whichwood, the sequel, is even more flavorful, and I couldn’t get enough!

Based more on Persian folklore, Whichwood tells the story of Layla, a mordeshoor who washes the dead and sends their spirits off to the next world. And by washing the dead, I mean that she washes the bodies in a tub, hangs them on a clothesline to dry, and then plucks a rose petal out of her mouth.

I can’t even begin to tell you how imaginative this story is. The characters were all unique, the voice – oh, the voice – I loved it in Furthermore, and I loved it even more in Whichwood.

This is one of the most fantastical, creative, beautiful books I’ve read all year. Everything was perfect – the setting, descriptions, characters, dialogue, everything!

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship. 

Everything was magical in Whichwood. The storytelling reminds me of Middle Eastern stories, where time is taken to enjoy the scene, descriptions are beautifully rendered, and emotions are felt and given time to be felt.

There’s an underlying darkness to the story that touches on so much – prejudice, neglect, feeling unloved, death. And it was perfect. Much like Harry Potter, where things delve deeper than you would think for a middle grade book, Whichwood gives credit to readers’ experiences and intelligence, and respects that they will appreciate the feelings the characters have.

Needless to say, Mafi is now on my list of top fantasy writers.

Favorite quotes in Whichwood:

“Alice had a heart of silk and a spine of steel.”

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