The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: The Waking Forest
Summary: Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.
The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.
To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.
The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½
My Thoughts: The Waking Forest is a YA debut that melds contemporary with fantasy and magic in an interesting way! Rhea begins questioning what’s real and what’s not when dreams begin merging into her everyday life! With her pet fox by her side she begins uncovering and losing herself in a peculiar magic only she can see! The Waking Forest is an eerie, whimsical debut that introduces fairy tales, a descriptive writing-style, and a story that’s more than it seems!
The Waking Forest is a book I’d really been looking forward to–a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch–there’s also a magical forest and the main character has a pet fox?!?! This book had a lot of different elements that would work great together! (+ The cover is so beautiful and atmospheric–it really went with the story).
I did find the story to be a bit underwhelming and it got a bit lost along the way. But, I do see myself reading more of Wees books in the future because I loved the unique concept!
There were a lot of different elements that made this book really stand out and kept me invested–from the unpredictability of the plot, atmospheric writing, unique incorporation of fairy tales, and main themes that stay present throughout the book!
Told through dual POV’s we follow our main character Rhea who continuously has dreams about the attic in her house, but can never quite reach it. However early on in the book, she does and fears for what it could mean. Then within the attic she learns of a mysterious boy (who she calls Darkness) whose giving her some sort of test/game to play! If she wins, she can unlock all the answers he’s hiding. If not, her family will pay the price!
As she’s running out of time, she gets even more lost in this game as she tries to find the answers she’s looking for! I found this plot point to be the most interesting because it gets developed throughout the story and it was just a unique plot point I’d never really read before!
Aside from that main storyline, it also follows her everyday life with her parents, sisters (Rose, Renata, & Raisa), and their unique dynamic as Rhea’s dreams begin to worry them.
The 2nd POV follows the Witch In The Woods who lives in her sanctuary hidden deep in the forest with her army of foxes and grants wishes for a price! Throughout her POV its told in a fairytale/storyteller-type fashion as a boy (who for some time was disguised as a fox) tries to learn more about the Witch by intriguing her with a fairytale of a princess, magic, castles, and a forest!
As we delve more into her POV, we learn how lonely she is and that with each continuation of the boy’s story, she begins feeling less alone.
What I really enjoyed about this book that was underlying, but explored throughout was Wees use of fairy tale elements! But, they were incorporated in a very original way! From princesses, magical forests, witches, storytelling–it all felt familiar but also different and I enjoyed how Wees really created her own tale within a tale!
Before the reveal of how these 2 POV’s were connected, I felt that the Witch’s story line (granting wishes, getting told a story & finding herself no longer alone) seemed to mirror Rhea’s growth as well! Rhea finds herself lost and unsure of the world, but then its through magic that she’s able to find her way again. Wees’s symbolism through both POV’s was an element that I really enjoyed as I began making my own connections as the story progressed.
The Waking Story is also very much a character-driven journey as Rhea learns more about herself as she unlocks the mysteries about these dark dreams and the magic that’s seeping into her everyday life! The way that dreams were developed near the end of the story honestly surprised me in a way I did not see coming!
There’s also the element of family and sisterhood, as Rhea lives with her 3 sisters (Rose, Renata, Raisa). Their dynamic is different and complicated, but no matter what they really do care for each other, even in the most difficult moments! Having sisters myself I liked seeing this sister dynamic explored throughout the book!
Rhea’s story is told through 1st person and found it to be a very introspective POV! While The Waking Forest could have been more developed in other areas, I found what did make this book an immersive read was reading from Rhea’s perspective. The focus on her & her dreams, and the magic that gets explored made this book incredibly character-driven where Rhea really stands out as a protagonist!
Now onto why I rated this 3.5 stars: I just felt the story/writing was just lacking in execution…The writing is very direct, vivid, and descriptive, but described things in a very odd way. It was going for a sort-of purple prose which I could see, but it just didn’t work for me personally.
I also found that as we delve more into the story, Part 2 which reveals more secrets about these 2 POVs and how they work together, was just executed in a way that felt like a bit of a let down.
There’s fantasy elements explored through the story that the Witch hears and as those get developed more in Part 2, I found myself not really connecting with them honestly. I also felt that as the secrets to the Witch’s story are uncovered, they were never really given more detail and merge with Rhea’s POV in a way that while unexpected, wasn’t developed a whole lot.
Overall, I just felt The Waking Forest‘s whimsical, oddly descriptive writing, and execution of plot just didn’t work for me personally.
However, if your looking for a really immersive YA Fairy-Tale/Contemporary fantasy that really puts a focus on its main character– The Waking Forest is definitely an interesting book to check out!
The Waking Forest is character-driven, atmospheric YA Debut that melds contemporary with fantasy in a very unique way! Through the exploration of the power of dreams, nightmares, and magic, Wees immersive debut offers a unique look at magic, if one looks closely!