The Waking Forest is a paper matryoshka. It’s made of stories inside of stories, interlocked, the lines between them blurred until you can’t tell which side is before and which side is after. It’s a book about mysterious witches, curses whispered in the dark, and the power of wishes.
Sounds like an interesting concept, right? It was. The execution, sadly, wasn’t at all.
The first half didn’t deserve a low rating. It was a story about a witch and a haunted girl, it was interesting to read and beautiful and intricate the way this book promised to be. It had its own flaws – the writing was pretty, that’s true, but this book often felt overwritten, a clumsy attempt at elegant prose – but it was what I wanted to read. I would have given it a solid three stars, even though I found the resolution of the story-inside-a-story part predictable.
But the actual problem? That aspect gets resolved 60% into the book. After that, The Waking Forest isn’t a story about a witch and her pet foxes or about a girl whose family is disappearing in increasingly disturbing ways. No, it becomes an extremely cliché YA fantasy story about a princess who needs to take back the throne.
I didn’t sign up for this. I wanted to read about a witch, a creepy forest, and tales nestled inside other tales. I could have forgiven that if the second half had had any interesting elements in it, but it didn’t – it was one of the most uninspired things I’ve read in a long while. How many times have I read a “princess needs to take back the throne” story in my life? Right now, I can list at least twelve YA books published in the last four years that did this, and all of them were better at it than this book.
Everything I liked about The Waking Forest was lost in part two. The witch-y aspect, the foxes, the atmosphere – which during the first half was a dreamlike kind of creepy, beautiful in its own way – they weren’t there anymore, and I ended up skimming most of the ending.
I guess I just need to remind myself to never trust white, straight YA fantasy, no matter how good the premise sounds.
My rating: ★★