Winterwood Review! // deadly forests + lost boys + atmospheric writing

Hi friends! Today I’m here to talk about an author’s sophomore novel, the very same author whose debut made it onto my favorite books of 2018 list! Shall we begin?

A huge thank-you to Simon for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

I absolutely LOVED the Shea Ernshaw’s debut, The Wicked Deep. I was happy to note that her follow-up, while a totally different story, was still recognizable as the same author. But first, can we just appreciate the cover?!?! And the naked hardback is GORGEOUS, with silvery-blue tree branches creeping up the book. Hats off to the design team! It’s absolutely beautiful*.

*oh come on, you all KNOW that i’m shallow when it comes to book covers. sometimes i’m more judgmental about the cover than the actual book itself
  • The writing/atmosphere! I LOVE good atmosphere. The Wicked Deep tasted of salt and beach and stormy summer, while this was pure snow and forest and witchy, witchy magic. Imagery (especially nature and stars) is something I highly prize in writing, so when it’s done well I SCREAM and tab and SCREAM some more! So obviously, I fell head-over-heels in love!
  • Nora was an incredible female character. All her life, people had called her weird and wanted nothing to do with her. Still, she isn’t ashamed that she is a Walker, a witch. Her only regret is not being able to learn more from her grandmother before her death, and not having a shadow (special talent) like all Walker women before her.

“I want to be like the women who came before me, brave and clever with the shimmer of dark moonlight in their veins.”

  • Oliver was…interesting. I neither liked nor disliked him at first, then my emotions wavered, and towards the end I was definitely rooting for him! His chapters were short and vague, only adding to the sense of uneasy mystery pervading the entirety of the book.

it got pretty intense, not going to lie.

I guessed part of the big plot twist at the end, but the ending? TOTALLY unpredictable. In fact, I think that the last 100 pages really solidified how much I enjoy Ernshaw’s stories, because while I don’t adore her romance or characters as much as others, her writing and plotting is just so excellent. I got Life Is Strange vibes, actually*.

*i just realized that one of the characters is named max caulfield…i am screaming

The romance was okay. WAY too insta-lovey for my tastes, with a bit too much teenage drama and angst. I ended up not minding it because the conclusion was so fantastic in my eyes but if that’s something that really bothers you, I’d recommend perhaps adjusting your expectations or reconsidering!

“…I didn’t imagine him: a boy made of snow and dark stars. And once the sun rose in the sky, he turned back into dust and disappeared.”

The setting was not my favorite. Mainly because we stay in the area for most of the book, so it felt a little redundant at times. Of course, that might just be because I’m used to fantasy novels that take you to a trillion places in one book haha! But the pace, plot, and setting of Winterwood didn’t quite keep my interest at times, at least not as much as I wished.

So that’s it! Tell me: have you read either of Shea Ernshaw’s novels? What’s a book you like with lovely atmosphere?

5 thoughts on “Winterwood Review! // deadly forests + lost boys + atmospheric writing

  1. I have not read this one yet but it’s in my TBR pile. Sometimes the insta-love thing can be annoying but sometimes I just overlook it, it really depends on my mood I think LOL. I like that this is atmospheric, I love books like that. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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