The Waking Forest was my most anticipated read for early 2019. I was so excited to read it – from that gorgeous cover to the synopsis that promised frightening visions and a witch that grants wishes, I was all in. Add a line into the synopsis that reads “The waking forest has secrets,” and I pretty much was sitting here counting down the days until this book released. The cover is no doubt one of the prettiest covers I have ever seen, even now, and I wanted to buy a copy just to stare at. So yeah, I was really, really excited for this book.
And then I read it.
I’m not really sure what happened here. The first half of the book, while written with an odd style, really had a lot of promise.
About a quarter of the way through this book, I had a really hard time getting into it and honestly just considered giving up and getting over it. But I kept going, because surely this had to get better, right?
Halfway through, I was still confused about everything going on, but a lot had picked up and I actually started enjoying it a bit. So I kept going. And then everything kind of went downhill from there. The pacing was a bit off and it all just seemed forced. By the last third of the book, I was pretty much just skimming to finish it. Which is odd, because that’s when everything picked up and it should have been more interesting.
I’m going to give a rundown of the plot here, like I usually do, and then talk some more about my feelings toward the book a little later on.
“‘I am the Witch of Wishes,’ she said. ‘What would you ask of me?'”
Imagine a dark, creepy forest full of trees and darkness, with a strange castle sitting in the center. Inside lives a witch, who calls herself the Witch of Wishes – she grants wishes to those who ask for them, by taking pieces of her own heart and giving them away. Of course, the witch is lonely, despite the fact that she is surrounded by foxes who keep her company and guard her, keeping her safe.
“Her world, her castle – it had not wanted to be created. It had been pulled out of her sleeping heart, and it had hurt. The pain had never faded, a perpetual poison with no known antidote.”
In another world, another lifetime even, lives a girl named Rhea. Rhea lives in a seaside home with her parents and her sisters, as well as her fox – an ever-faithful companion whom she loves and adores. She has a good life with her family, and she is happy.
However, Rhea is plagued by strange visions that make her question her reality and her sanity. When she sleeps, she has dreams, and soon, the dreams become more than just dreams.
“My sisters defend me when they can, but all the kids around town tease us. They think we have secrets, and maybe we do. Secrets we don’t even know ourselves, locked away in the restless, breathless blooms of our hearts, coiled in the roots of our souls.”
Soon, Rhea’s visions begin to take on new forms, including a strange boy in the attic. As they continue, strange things begin to happen around her home and with her family – including disappearances and impossible happenings that just don’t make any sense.
Meanwhile, the Witch of Wishes is hearing stories from a fox-who-isn’t-really-a-fox, but instead a boy. The fox-who-isn’t-really-a-fox tells her dreamy tales of a long lost kingdom.
As the Witch of Wishes learns more and more about this long lost kingdom, and Rhea tries to figure out what’s really happening, their worlds collide and they both learn something that will change everything they have ever known.
Okay. So, where to start? First, the writing in this novel was quite over-flowery, if that makes sense. As you can see from the quotes above, it was quite lyrical in terms of the writing style, and while I usually love that, it just seemed a bit overdone. Sometimes I actually had to stop and reread the same sentence a few times to really understand what was happening in the story. While I have no problem with that kind of writing style, it just wasn’t for me – it didn’t work well with the plot and everything going on, and it kind of made it seem like it was dragging on at a snail’s pace.
The part of the book I actually loved was the part when strange things began happening to Rhea after meeting a boy from one of her visions. I thought her visions were actually quite interesting. I do have to say, that when she had visions of the woods, I did like the way the author described them. Likewise, I loved the excellent and detailed world building for the chapters involving the Witch of Wishes, her castle, and the ominous forest in which she lived. I felt like I was right there in the story.
I didn’t get a connection with the characters at all – they kind of felt unfinished, maybe? I’m not sure, I just thought they were missing something personality-wise, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I honestly lost interest by the time I got to the last third of the book. I had already guessed the plot twist and was kind of bummed out that I did.
I’ve seen so many people really enjoying this book, and I think that it’s absolutely awesome! I’m so glad that so many people had a great time with reading this one. Maybe one day I’ll go back and reread it and enjoy it more.
If you’ve been thinking about reading The Waking Forest, by all means, I hope you do! It was definitely an interesting story and was incredibly different from anything else I’ve ever read. In fact, I’m not even sure what genre to put this in, because it was just so different and really stands out. So like I said, if you think you’d enjoy this one, please read it! Maybe I was just going through a difficult reading period when I was reading it or something, and it made me have strange opinions about it.
Alyssa Wees is such a talented author and has an amazing way with words and an incredibly ability to weave a story together. Honestly, I would love to pick up anything else from this author, because I love the way she crafted this book.