Rhea Rhavenna knows of things that don’t actually exist. A wood at her backyard. A boy in the darkness of the attic.
And when the boy speaks to her, she agrees to play his game. Which leads Rhea to discover something far greater than the life she’s known with her family.
Meanwhile, the Witch lives in the forest, granting children’s wishes. And when a mysterious visitor, disguised as a fox, arrives and begins to tell her stories, the Witch slowly awakens to that something greater.
Rhea and the Witch’s paths will collide in the magical tale that is The Waking Forest.
I feel somewhat bad because I know that I could have rated this so much higher if I was in the perfect mood for it.
Except . . . I had just finished Naomi Novak’s Uprooted, loved it so much, and am in the unfortunately position that anything I read after it would be just not as good as I wanted it to be.
So know, going into this review, that my rating is skewed lower than it could have been because I am first and foremost a mood reader and unfortunately that plays a big part in my ratings!
BUT–Alyssa Wees’ The Waking Forest was magical. It was lush, spooky and a little bit sinister and full of magic and storylines that merged together in a way that I didn’t expect.
The writing was beautiful and lyrical and descriptive, but not too much that it felt like purple prose, and I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who enjoys beautiful writing.
I definitely was swayed a lot by this, even in my not-in-the-exact-right-mood state.
I really enjoyed how, even in the contemporary portions of Rhea vs. the fantasy portions of the Witch, the story was magical and full of literary flourishes (in a good way).
Plus, it felt almost Shakespeare-esque in a way that I can’t elaborate much on without spoiling everything, but the ____ within a ____ concept is thriving in The Waking Forest and I love it!
And the plot!!! That twist!!! I definitely think this book deserves points because of the twist. It reminded me a lot of The Wicked Deep for ways I can’t spoil, but I thought it was a very unique concept.
However, it was a little jarring for it to happen, and I do think the transition of the twist could have been just a tad smoother. (Although, the jarringness could be a reflection of the characters’ emotions, so who am I to judge?)
Not factoring in my mood, I would have given The Waking Forest a solid 4, and maybe a 4.5 on a good day.
But, for ~some reason~, it felt like I was always a beat off when reading this book. Like, things didn’t click as quickly as they should have for me and sometimes I felt a little lost/confused/like I missed something.
If this book was beating at a “thump. thump. thump.” sound, and my own thumps were added to it, we would sound like “th-thump. th-thump. th-thump.” together–if that makes any sense?
I just felt like I was one beat off while reading, and so the experience was just a little bit off-kilter for me, although I blame my headspace while reading for this.
It’s probably no fault of the book’s–just my personal experience.
Overall, The Waking Forest was a genuinely good read and magical debut–one I think a lot of people can and will enjoy, and one that I definitely want to revisit and fall in love with in the future.
I would definitely recommend it for people who like lyrical writing, enjoyed Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep, or want something similar woodsy and magical!
Thank you so much to Delacorte and Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!