By Lauren Owen
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
I’ve had a hard time writing this review. In fact, I finished this novel several weeks ago and have started and deleted the review multiple times, never able to flesh out my thoughts or write a concise synopsis. Then it dawned on me that that’s exactly how the novel was – not that there wasn’t a coherent plot, but that the premise is magical, almost ephemeral, and difficult to pin down. There were several stories being told at the same time that flowed and danced around each other, so I’ve struggled to write something concrete. But I’ll do my best.
Mockbeggar Woods sits at the edge of a small English village. (If I might digress, Mockbeggar Woods is possibly the best name ever.) The locals have known for centuries that the woods are magical and the thing they like best is a good story. But the onus for keeping the woods happy has always fallen on one family to make up for a tragic death. Because if there’s one thing the woods love more than a story, it’s the ghost of Harry, killed in the woods hundreds of years ago.
Lucia grew up on the edge of the woods and although she and her sisters know the rules, Lucia is unable to keep from breaking them. After one tragic night, the woods fall silent for a decade, and the family breaks apart, ending a blossoming romance between Lucia and Kate.
Now, with the reopening of the family church (Small Angels) by a naive bride, the woods are waking up. Kate has returned for her brother’s wedding with the unspoken role of keeping Chloe, the bride, safe. But Lucia has also returned and it will take the entire village to appease the woods this time.
I hope I did the plot justice because it’s truly a wonderful story and not at all what I was expecting. I’ve seen the term folk horror bandied about and while it doesn’t quite fit my definition of horror, the story does fall somewhere between that and magical realism.
The plot weaves between Lucia’s years growing up and the present, focusing primarily on Kate and Chloe. A few other points of view are dropped in and while that usually irritates me, they flowed naturally and only served to add to the tale. Fantastical, creepy, sad, and hopeful, this novel is really difficult to sum up. In a word, though, it’s magical. I highly recommend it.
I rated this novel 4.25 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐+
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing the ARC copy. I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.