It’s been a while since I’ve read a young adult fantasy book. So I have been on the lookout for a new one to pick up. Alyssa Wees’s debut novel, The Waking Forest caught my attention. It’s marketed as “Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood” and I was was immediately sold.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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?
Alyssa Wees’s writing impressed me right away. I’m a huge fan of this style of writing, and I think it served the story really well. It was a great blend of both simple and beautiful, and I thought Wees painted a really vivid world for her novel. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, especially when it came to The Forest Witch’s home.
This novel alternates between two stories: that of The Forest Witch, and that of Rhea. And while both were good, I found myself wanting more of The Forest Witch – I wasn’t quite as invested in Rhea’s chapters, and it slowed down the pace a bit for me, especially in the beginning. I think it’s because I loved the first chapter with The Forest Witch, and just kind of deflated a little when the point of view changed.
That said, I do think that Rhea’s story was really interesting. While it wasn’t quite as compelling as The Forest Witch’s story, I did enjoy the fact that it addresses anxiety in a big way. Personally, it helped me identify with the characters a lot more, and I really appreciated the discussion and how it was handled. Honestly, it’s needed in YA literature, and I liked that it was included in a fantasy book.
Overall, I think this was a solid young adult fantasy debut. Did it blow me away? No. But I did enjoy it. The story was unique, and I think Alyssa Wees has a lot of potential – her writing alone shows how talented she is. I think is YA fantasy is your thing, The Waking Forest is worth looking into.
★★★☆☆ – Like I said, young adult fantasy is not something I read a lot of anymore. However, I’m glad I decided to read The Waking Forest. It might not have been my cup of tea personally, but I enjoyed it more than I was honestly expecting to. A lot of YA fantasy I’ve read kind of blends together, but this one did feel really original, which I appreciated a lot.
The Waking Forest will be available in bookstores March 12. If you’re interested, you can order a copy on Amazon now.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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