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?
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Once upon a time, there was a princess. This princess possessed magic, but needed to hide it because her grandfather the king kept people like herself in chains. She survived for a while living two lives, but then she was discovered, and faced with death or enslavement, the princess made her own choice. This is the story that Rhea Ravenna hears in the darkness of her attic, and it is a story that will change her life.
At the beginning, I loved The Waking Forest. Alyssa Wees’s writing is a little flowery, but I like that aspect. Part One weaves between the Witch in the Forest who grants wishes, and young Rhea Ravenna and her sisters. Both of these worlds were interesting and I liked them. The voices were distinctly different and the pacing between each with great. Early in The Waking Forest, I thought I was going to love this novel.
Enter Part Two.
For me, Part Two felt like it was written by an entirely different person. The toy box of characters and world building elements was dumped on the table. It was quickly paced. Where the contemporary was interesting and grounded in Part One, and the fantasy was rich and blossoming… now we’re entirely in fantasy, everything is getting done very quickly, and the characters are still behaving fully like contemporary characters. All the goals are accomplished easily. The magic system is not really explained. The beautiful language from the start of the book is gone. Part Two was jarringly different, and it was not the fantasy I was promised in Part One. I didn’t believe that things would have worked out for Rhea. I felt like the sister dynamic was lost. The magic system was assumed rather than explained. I can’t get past how much it felt like two different books, and I felt hugely let down.
Many people compare this to The Hazel Wood, and that’s a fair comparison. It’s the same type of story. The Waking Forest is more magic in the beginning, with a better integration, but people who enjoy the pacing and beat of contemporary YA will probably prefer this one to The Hazel Wood. At the end of the day, The Waking Forest was not for me, but I believe it will find a good audience.