When I first read the synopsis for The Waking Grove I just knew that I had to read it. And I’m so glad that I did because I found a truly enchanting and beautiful fantasy story.The novel takes place in the Waking Grove, a lush, lovely forest protected by the dryad Melina. The Waking Grove is also home to druids and elves. This protected and thriving forest is being encroached upon by its most dangerous threat-humans. Melina’s desire to protect her Grove and the people in it has always been her driving force, until the day the blossom appears and she is told that it is her unborn child. Melina struggles with her dedication and duty to her Grove and people and the growing and overwhelming desire to protect her child at all costs. And as the humans move closer to the Grove, Melina, and her friends-elves Maro and Azriel, the druids Talakar and Danae, and the mysterious Kithric, are forced to make hard choices and uncover buried truths as well.The world that Lark has created in this book is absolutely spellbinding. Once I began reading, I couldn’t stop and the ending was bittersweet, simply because I wasn’t ready to step out of the magical Grove and back into our world. With The Waking Grove, Lark has accomplished something that I have always believed determined the difference between a good fantasy and a great fantasy- she’s created a fantasy world that feels incredibly real. Although her world is filled with dryads, druids, elves, talking animals, conscious trees, and magic, it’s easy to believe and imagine oneself simply stumbling upon the Waking Grove and being welcomed and embraced by its inhabitants. Furthermore, Lark has created a world that readers will wish they could happen upon and be swept away into.The characters in this novel are also wonderful, and for reasons beyond their fantasy aspects. The elf siblings Maro and Azriel have a very loving, deep relationship that really gives the book heart. Maro is a strong, fierce, feisty and independent female character who is easy to root for and connect with, while Azriel adds a very funny, lightheartedness to the story. Kithric is the mysterious, yet brave and caring male character that adds a bit of swoon worthiness to the mix. I found myself as intrigued by him as Maro is, and he is both enrapturing and frustrating in the most delicious way. Then there’s Melina, who is such a beautifully crafted character. The fantasy aspects of her character- her magic, her appearance, her connection with her Grove- are captivating by themselves, but it’s really her emotional journey and struggles throughout the book that kept me enthralled. As a dryad, Melina is bound to one tree for life and it is her duty to protect her Grove and those who reside there. She is not allowed to fall in love nor have children of her own. Melina’s dedication to her Grove and her people, her love for Talakar, her love for and deep desire to keep her child, and the truths she discovers about herself make for a very emotionally charged story. There are moments of such heartache and sadness in this book that I had me in tears, but there’s such an honest beauty to these moments too that is so powerful and moving.Although this is a fantasy book, at its core, it’s about love; family; friendship; and sacrifice. But the fantasy elements are stunning and grand as well. In The Waking Grove, Lark has created a lovely and layered story that is entertaining, captivating, and touching. I loved this book and I think you will too.