Published by Feiwel & Friends (1st August 2017)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Actual rating of 3.5
Do not travel from the paths.
Do not linger after dark.
Do not ignore the calling
When Winter’s father goes missing after his evening patrol of the Wood that backs onto their house, Winter must take up the mantel of Guardian. She wasn’t expecting to take on such a heavy burden by herself just yet, but she must do what she is destined to. As she patrols the woods sending travelers back to the time and place they came from, she starts to wonder if there isn’t more behind the disappearance of her father. When a traveler tries to leave the Wood, something that is strictly forbade by the council, not once, but thrice, Winter can’t help but wonder what he’s up to. Henry is soon able to convince Winter that if they only work together they may be able to find his missing parents, and in turn, what really happened to her father. If Winter refuses to put her trust in Henry, who knows what could happen, the wood is dying and becoming monstrous during the daylight hours. If she does choose to trust him, what will they possibly uncover?
I’m not gonna lie, I was expecting this to have more of a horror feel than a fantasy feel. I’m not even sure why I thought this would be more on the horror side of things. Don’t get me wrong, there are definite creep vibes with the creatures that haunt the forest at night, but not what I would consider horror. And that’s perfectly okay, it’s on me for expecting this book to be something that it never tried to be. That’s not to say that I did not enjoy it, because I did. I feel like this is a super solid debut novel and I’m kind of hoping that we may get a revisit to Winter’s world at some point because there’s things that need resolving for me; namely her and Henry’s non relationship.
This is definitely a mixture of young adult, coming of age, fantasy, and mystery. It all blended together so well and created such a strong debut novel that was so unique and definitely stood out against others I’ve read that are even remotely similar to it. It gave me the feels of Caravel, and The Night Circus, not in the story itself or the type of story that it is, it just gave me whimsical, unique world vibes which was fantastic. Especially for a debut.
The mystery lays heavy through the whole story, what happened to Winter’s dad, and it kept you guessing right up until the reveal, well for me at least it did. I did not pick the twist at all, and that is very uncommon these days as I do read quite a bit, so it’s rare to come across a story that can actually surprise me. The world that Bobulski created in the Wood was beautiful and even a bit complex yet easy to grasp. The idea of a Wood where people fall into through fissures in time, where they cannot linger for the forest turns monstrous at night and will take their lives, therefore guardians are essentially to return said travelers back to their place in time. It’s a hint of sci fi without that overbearing complexity that I come to expect from the science fiction genre. The story of the Wood is told through flashbacks that happen sporadically throughout the story as Winter is reminded of a certain moment or lesson with her father.
The characters were written well enough, but I feel like this is where the story fell a bit short for me. Winter felt incredibly flat. Initially she seemed like such a strong and troubled voice and I was pretty excited to see how her voice evolved as the story progressed. However, I feel like Winter sort of faded into the background of the story, I’m not sure if this was intentional as Bobulski tried to make the reader feel the emptiness that Winter and her mother felt after losing her father, or whether it was just that this is an area that the author needs to work on a little bit. I felt like Henry’s character was probably the strongest, even Winter’s best friend seemed to come across as a strong personality yet the characters that I would except to be strong just weren’t. This is a big part of my lower rating.
The storyline itself kept me engaged enough, and there was a sense of urgency to it because our characters were literally running out of time, but I just felt somewhat detached from the story itself, and I honestly can’t say why. I didn’t feel fully immersed in the story at any point and that made me sad.
All in all, this was a super strong debut novel and the premise was absolutely fantastic, I don’t think there’s anything that really could have been done to make it better as the ideas were incredibly sound. I feel like the character development will come with time and practice and I cannot wait to see the moment that I really feel for Bobulski’s characters because I just know that the ability is there for her to do it, the author was almost there in this book. If you’re looking for something different and engaging, give this story a go, it can’t really be compared to any other story that I’ve read, and I feel it deserves a strong round of applause for that on it’s own.
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