Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Published: Delacorte, March 2019
My Rating: 1/5 stars
I gave this book two valiant attempts but I simply can’t finish it. DNF at 70%, skim-read the ending to know that I’m not missing anything.
I can vividly remember the release of The Waking Forest, as this cover was one of the best things to happen that month. I held off on picking it up though, because of the mixed reception from early reviewers. When offered a copy in exchange for review myself, I decided to give it a try, hoping to get my Grimm-dark (pun intended) fairytale quotum for the year in.
The premise and the setting sound like something I should enjoy. Unfortunately, the execution is so all over the place that this book was unsalvageable for me. The first and most obvious issue is that the plot completely disjointed, to the point where I had no idea what was happening. Wees attempts to weave together two storylines (Rhea’s and the witch’s), but ends up with a tangled mess of yarns instead. This confusion wasn’t helped by the fact that none of the characters, nor their narrative voices, really have any distinguishing traits that made them memorable to me, making everything blur together in a way.
The plot itself meanders, seemingly without purpose, as if the author was “discovery writing” rather than working towards a clear end-goal. As a result, the resolution of the story comes in the form of some of the most overdone cliché tropes and plot beats in YA-fantasy, that I’m frankly tired of seeing. Seriously, it’s for a reason that I actively avoid any YA-fantasy that mentions the words “lost princess reclaiming the throne” in the synopsis.
Last but not least, I had some major gripes with the writing-style. My personal tolerance for “lyrical writing” is pretty high; in fact I love it usually. This however, is what you find in the dictionary under the definition of “purple prose”. Overwritten sentences, non-sensical metaphors
"Except for a the few popped pustules of stars and the waning wart of the moon, the sky is dark."
and deeply cringe-worthy character descriptors
"This boy, this Darkness, an inoculation, my veins frothing with fright, foaming with fascination."
I can see there being an audience for this book. If you’re okay with all of the above, and are looking for a classic, early-2010’s-feeling young adult fantasy with a focus on fairytales and stories within stories, this one might be for you. Unfortunately, to me, this was the kind of debut to put me off an author for a long time. I’m all for second chances, but unless Wees’ next book is a miraculous hit, I won’t be picking up any of her works from now on.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an review-copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.