Book Review: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Posted October 29, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Ghost Wood Song

Ghost Wood Song

by Erica Waters

Publisher: HarperTeen on July 14, 2020
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIAP+, Paranormal
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.

But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.

In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.


Ghost Wood Song started off so strong for me.  It had a very different Southern setting rather than a New Orleans or Virginia feel we usually get from books set in the American South.  And it was immediately spooky, with a very “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” vibe.  For about the first 50 pages, I loved this book.

Then it fizzled out.

The characters, I soon learned, were very internalized.  Now, that’s just fine depending on what you’re looking for in a book. I am primarily a character reader, so having them closed off like that was a bit of a bummer for me.  And I did not feel that other aspects of the book made up for it – it felt like everything was just a little bit “less” than it could have been, you know?  Falling just short of its maximum potential.  As far as the characters go, I thought Cedar and Aunt Ena were written best, but even their characters were compromised of “one thing”.  One thing to give them shape – Ena’s was her fear, Cedar’s his protective drive.  Our protagonist, Shady Grove, was all about determination.  A strength and a fatal flaw, but her needs were too effortlessly met.  Which brings me to the plot.

You tell me there’s a fiddle that can raise ghosts, and I’m thrilled.  How unique, how EXCITING.  In reality, Ghost Wood Song was more about solving a murder than it was about spooky ghost raising. There was ghost raising but only in relation to solving a crime.  Shady Grove’s control of her fiddle was easy; she never struggled to learn how to take it to the next level – from music to ghost calling – because it came to her naturally.  Characters that have extraordinary abilities that they don’t earn frustrate me. Even her consequences felt fairly minimal and very easy to subvert.  It just… didn’t resonate.  I wanted Ghost Wood Song to raise the stakes, and it never did.

The whole middle of the book was spent with Shady upset over the way things had turned out, wildly ignoring everyone’s warnings, doing whatever she wanted, and getting away with it.  Not just getting away with it.  Succeeding.  Even when there were some hard consequences at one point, they cleared up quickly and easily and she wasn’t discouraged from her mission.  And on one hand that determination is admirable, but on the other hand, it’s not always interesting to read about.  There were no ups and downs in Ghost Wood Song – the whole book trudged forward at a steady pace and it failed to get me truly invested.

While the setting and supernatural in Ghost Wood Song were interesting, I never felt they were employed to their true potential.  The fiddle, for example, had a far better story than it did reality, and I don’t truly understand why the author decided to revisit that near the end of the book.  Scenes failed be immersive, which is something that can really bring a book to the next level.  I’m scratching my head trying to think of a time taste or scent were used in this book, and I can’t. All the descriptions revolved around sight and sound, and the sound really should have been used more strongly than it was, considering how central a role music has.  I’m not a regular (ever) listener of bluegrass, and so mentioning the instruments or bluegrass songs did nothing for me.  And while on one hand it’s not the author’s responsibility to educate me on music genres, if you’re going to include something so heavily in your book, you should talk a little more about how it sounds rather than throwing out classic titles, right?

Anyway, just some thoughts.

I wanted to like Ghost Wood Song, I really did.  But it failed to hold my interest, and it failed to bring the spookiness up to the level I wanted.  At the end of the day, Ghost Wood Song is less a ghost story than it is a story about family and loyalty.  I think a lot of people will enjoy this book, but it wasn’t a fit for my tastes.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★
Plot: ★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★ 1/2

3 Star Rating


Ghost Wood Song Will Be Donated

I feel like this book let me down.  I had no expectations for it, and if the first 50 pages hadn’t gotten my hopes up, this may have all been fine.  Unfortunately, it did get my hopes up, and now I’m just sad that I didn’t get my spooky paranormal book and that the whole thing was about family?  I know, that makes me sound sorta terrible.  It wasn’t the book I was looking for.

This one’s going to be moved into my Little Free Library rotation.  I hope it finds a new home because it’s certainly nothing something I’m looking to read again.  It didn’t feel nuanced and layered to have anything more to offer me, and Shady’s easy success in everything was a frustration for me.


If you could raise the ghost of a family member, who would you want to raise?  For me, I’d want to talk to either my aunt or my grandfather… but also ghosts freak me out so probably nobody!  In Ghost Wood Song, Shady raises multiple family members – which one would you pick?  Let me know in the comments!

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