The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
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?
While I didn’t love this book, I can definitely appreciate how beautiful the writing is.
The book stars by alternating chapters. Some by a girl, Rhea, and others by the witch in the forest who grants wishes.
Rhea lives with her parents, sisters, and pet fox. They are all close. I actually really liked the parents in this book, especially the dad. But Rhea has these weird dreams. She doesn’t always know if she’s asleep or awake. She also sees a forest where there are no woods. Once she moves up into the attic, she starts hearing this boy, darkness. He tells her that they’ve met before. If she says his name, it will break the curse. Then people in her family start disappearing. No one remembers them. It’s like they were never there. It ends up being just Rhea and her sister, Rose.
The witch is being visited by a fox who is not a fox. He starts telling her stories about a princess and a king that doesn’t want magic. The magic users were born with two hearts. A human heart for the city and a magical heart that wanted the forest. There were different types of magic. There are dream designers, dream walkers, necromancers, and others. The king doesn’t want anyone using magic around him unless it’s for his benefit. The princess won’t agree to it and makes a spell that puts her into a sleep. But she’s needed to save their kingdom.
This book has beautiful writing and descriptions, but it’s also very slow paced. There are times where not much really happens. The pacing picks up a bit halfway through, but I actually enjoyed the slower half more (which is odd for me). I really liked the chapters with the witch, but I also enjoyed Rhea’s interactions with her family.
Warnings for talk of anxiety.
I gave this book 3 stars. While it’s not my favorite type of book to read, I did enjoy it. It took me longer than normal to read it. I think people that like the writing in books like Strange Grace and An Enchantment of Ravens will enjoy the writing style in this one. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy for review.
Have you read this book yet? Is it on your TBR?