Title: The Waking Forest
Author: Alyssa Wees (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: March 12th, 2019 from Delacorte Press
Format: Kindle ARC
Goodreads Synopsis: Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.
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?
**I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions aren’t my own. No quotations will be used.**
DNF @ 55%
When I saw the blurb of this book being compared to Pan’s Labyrinth, I knew that would be big shoes to fill. Guillermo Del Toro’s 2007 Spanish masterpiece is an amazing fantasy movie if you haven’t seen it. Does the book blurb deliver? A little. I knew going into this book that many people haven’t been loving it and I was afraid of joining that squad and I ended up being right. I agree with many of the things that people haven’t enjoyed in this debut novel. Here’s my three biggest struggles that I had with the book.
My first problem, first and foremost, was the writing style. I’m an English major so an author’s writing style is very crucial for me to enjoy a book. I think the writing was trying way too hard to be like other authors such as Laini Taylor that beautiful prose. Many sentences were sentence fragments that genuinely made no sense. You can read several Goodreads reviews that have snippets of the writing so you can judge for yourself. But the writing kept throwing me off. It felt like a ton of words thrown onto the pages, but it didn’t help the story if that makes sense. The book felt like a ton of descriptions way more than moving the story along which was frustrating. While the first chapter described the place where the witch lived, the creepy imagery did work well there and showed promise at first. I will admit that the chapters with the witch were a little more interesting than the modern chapters, but still not engaging enough to read the whole thing. I got frustrated enough to start skimming, which is never a good sign.
My second problem of this book were the modern chapters of Rhea’s POV. She’s a girl that has haunting visions and even her other sisters are kind of “off” as well. I didn’t like her chapters because there were descriptions of what I believe were panic attacks/anxiety and it was more confusing than getting any reaction of me. She had no other personality other than thinking about this visions all the time. Her lack of sleep never seemed to show and she had no hobbies or interests that we learned about her. I didn’t have much to grasp on of her character to want to keep reading her chapters.
The final problem was the overall plot of the book. It sounds awesome from the synopsis, but I predicted a few major things to happen at the end from the first few chapters and the fact that I predicted what was going to happen isn’t good. The amount of foreshadowing killed any suspense or surprise of the revelations that happened later. I ended up getting fed up with the 130 pages that I read and just skimmed to the final chapters to see what happened. There were creative decisions with the plot that were just weird and it all of a sudden had fairy tale elements to it that made it feel like two completely different books by the end. The ending didn’t feel satisfying at all and I didn’t understand what I had just read when I finally gave up.
Overall: While this does one of the most mysterious and beautiful covers, the story inside didn’t match the stunning cover. When you can predict some things to happen very early on with lots and lots of foreshadowing, that is never a good sign. The writing truly rubbed me the wrong way, as it has with many other reviewers. I can tell that this book will be polarizing in many ways. If this does sound interesting to you, I would only recommend getting it from a local library. This was a overly written and emotionless story that never engaged me.
Rating: .5 to 2 stars
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Does this book sound interesting to you? Let me know in the comments!