The Keepers of Metsan Valo
By Wendy Webb
Published in 2021
Following her grandmother’s death, Anni Halla leaves Paris and returns to Metsan Valo, her family’s home on a remote island in Michigan. Generations of Halla’s have lived and died on the estate carved from the ancient forest. Anni and her twin brother practically grew up in the house, nourished on a steady diet of her grandmother’s stories of the vaki, the denizens of the forest.
Surrounded by her eccentric family, Anni mourns her grandmother and, to everyone’s surprise, inherits the house and estate. She’s ready for a change and has nothing holding her in Paris, but strange things are happening on the island and it soon becomes apparent that the title of Mistress of Metsan Valo comes with more responsibilities than just paying the bills.
I loved the premise of this book and when I downloaded it, I didn’t realize it was written by the same author as The End of Temperance Dare. Both are beautifully atmospheric, but Temperance Dare dealt with ghosts while Metsan Valo focused on the Fae, or at least the Finnish version of Fae. I love Fae stories, so I was impatient to reach this book on my to-read list.
In some respects, it didn’t disappoint. The Finnish folktales were well-spun and the setting of Temperance Dare, the TB sanatorium turned artist retreat, added to the generally unsettling atmosphere of the area. When an author pulls in events or places from previous novels and I understand the reference, it’s like being in a secret club that not everyone’s privy to. That’s enough to give me warm fuzzies. But I digress.
There was solid tension in the story with unexplained events, ghost sightings, and tragedies befalling family members. The impetus for Anni to figure out the strange happenings was real and the stakes were high. But in many respects, this story almost felt formulaic due to the number of plot points used in both books (if plot points could be called formulaic after reading two works). To name one, the romantic attraction between the protagonist and her love interest was nearly identical, namely a pull toward a total stranger interest with no explicable reason.
There were two things that kept me from rating this novel higher, since it was, overall, a good read. Anni didn’t believe in the old folk tales or initially give credence to the paranormal situation she found herself in, and I’m not sure if her attitude changed a lot at the end of the novel. Although I have to give her credit for not fleeing the house. I probably wouldn’t have had the same fortitude. But my main gripe was having the climax explained after the fact. It was like a huge wave of tension crested for several chapters and then petered out when it should have dropped like a bomb. I can only imagine how much more satisfying it would have been (at least for me) if that pivotal scene had been shown in real time.
All that said, I would love to have a family as steeped in tradition, folklore, and magic as this one was. That, in itself, was magical.
I rated this novel three stars.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.
My rating system:
5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.
4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.
3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.
2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.
Write what should not be forgotten.Isabel Allende