My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: March 12th, 2019
The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game. To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.
The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive? – Synopsis by Goodreads.
“If Beauty is banished from darkness, then I am the ugliest thing here.”
The Waking Forest is a different sort of novel than many I come across in the YA category and it will not be for everyone, but several reviewers have already said if you love films by director Guillermo Del Toro, then you will likely enjoy this book. It’s exactly the kind of story he’d pick up to direct.
I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews on this novel, but I tried not to read any reviews prior to reading the novel, so I wouldn’t have my opinion swayed in any way and I really can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Alyssa Wees is a master of words, the writing is stunning. Her descriptions are rich and full of life. The Waking Forest goes back and forth between two young girls and two completely different worlds. Rhea, is from our world and lives with her sisters and parents in a quiet little beach house. The family is seen as odd by outsiders, so they mostly keep to themselves. Rhea has nightmares/visions that have haunted her since she was a child and the lines between reality and dreaming seem to be blurring more and more.
Then we have the Witch of the Woods, she is the granter of children’s wishes and a fox has shown up to tell her a story. Rhea and the Witch’s stories are told side by side and slowly start to come together and reveal an amazing connection.
I grew up on fairytales, especially the Fairy Books that were put together by Andrew Lang, so I really almost feel nostalgic when I come across a slower paced novel that has some of those elements that I adored so much as a child (and an adult!). The perspective of The Witch in the Woods gave me all those warm feelings in spades. It’s just so lovely. I did find the first chapter of this novel confusing, really confusing. The author went into the realm of purple prose a little too hard and lost some context because of the flowery writing – this does happen in a few other places, but I didn’t find it particularly hard to understand once it the story got moving.
I really appreciate that at the heart of this story, it’s about family. There are caring and loving parents present and the relationship between the sisters was magical. Yes, they didn’t always get along but you knew how much they all meant to each other. I love books with strong sibling relationships that don’t focus heavily on romance, so I was pleasantly surprised at finding those qualities in this book. Something else that I thought was done really well was the depiction of anxiety. It felt very authentic and wasn’t glossed over or cured overnight. I’m so happy we are seeing more and more realistic mental health inclusion. Oh, and I can’t forget Gabriel, she’s a little fox! If you put a little fox, wolf or even a dog in your story and no harm comes to them – I’m pretty much going to love it. I can’t not! It’s a freaking fox! Why don’t I have one!
I will say that once the stories do merge, there is a bit of a rough start at the connections but overall I thought it worked pretty well. A few things could have been developed a little more, but I was ultimately satisfied with how it all ended. I really appreciate a stand-alone fantasy because even though we are getting more lately – it’s still a rare occurrence overall and I don’t always feel like making a commitment of six books when I start something.
Overall, I can’t recommend this book to everyone. If you love lyrical, beautiful writing with a slow burn or old fairy tales then I think this book is worth checking out. It’s worth having for the cover alone – I mean look at that! It’s a thing of beauty! The Waking Forest unfolds slowly but still has a lasting impact. I’ll certainly be checking out the author’s future works.
Waking Forest Giveaway US only (not hosted by TBR and Beyond)
Follow the link below to enter. Good luck 🙂
Follow this link to the giveaway: RAFFLECOPTER
In between training in ballet and watching lots of Disney movies, Alyssa grew up writing stories starring her Beanie Babies. She earned a BA in English from Creighton University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Currently she works as an assistant librarian in youth services at an awesome public library. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and their two cats.
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