I’m super excited to share my early review of What the Woods Keep with all of you today! This book was amazingly good and I need everyone to go pre-order it RIGHT NOW (plus there is a cool swag incentive so, you know, worth it!).
Keep on scrolling for my review and don’t forget to check out my EXCLUSIVE interview with author Katya de Becerra along with a chance to win a copy of the book as part of the blog tour organized by Tale Out Loud!
by Katya de Becerra
Published on September 18, 2018 by Imprint
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.
On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.
Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.
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I’m honestly not sure what I expected when I started What the Woods Keep but a contemporary sci-fi/Nordic/Germanic mythology mash-up was not it. . . and I’m totally okay with that!
Despite a slow start, this intriguing book captured my attention and made it nearly impossible to read late at night for fear of nightmares to come. The writing follows a pattern of internal monologues by the protagonist, Hayden, mixed with related “current” events, and sprinkled with accounts from her therapist, news articles, and other bits and bobs to round out the narrative. The overall effect read almost like a mystery novel where the reader has the pieces but has to solve the puzzle.
Unlike most fantasy-esque contemporaries, this took the unrealistic and made it real. Hayden likes science, logical answers, the ability to explain away the paranormal. Her theories permeate the book and set me at odds with believing the paranormal much like she did. And then the supernatural element came into play and I was pleasantly surprised to recognize the tale of the Nibelungs as one related to Norse mythology (plus the added symbolism of the ravens all but confirmed it for me early on). Science meets myth and I’m HOOKED.
But that wasn’t all. What the Woods Keep has that haunting vibe that makes you want to put it aside and devour it all at once. I wanted to stop reading late into the night but found I just couldn’t put it down. I needed to solve the mystery behind Hayden’s mother’s disappearance, Hayden’s unusual heritage, her father’s secret research, all of it. But like Hayden, I couldn’t see through the fog around her old hometown that came through the very writing. It was a heady reading experience, to say the least.
And I loved Hayden’s character. She’s had a strange upbringing. Her father was stripped of his title as a professor for following conspiracy theories and stories. Her mother disappeared, never to be found, in the woods of her old town. She’s had strange events happen all around her for years. I felt for her. She just wants to know what’s going on and I wanted to know with her. Plus I loved the snark she added to the page.
Every element of this book heightens the tension. Even when the rational became the fantastical, I was long gone under the spell. Somehow through it all, there’s a thread of horror and suspense lingering beneath the surface. This book is kind of messed up and I loved every second of it.
My only real issue after I got into the world? The ending. All this tension and suddenly the book. . .
I thought I missed a chapter. I didn’t have the closure I needed to really wrap the book up. And as far as I know, it’s a standalone? I can certainly hope for a sequel or companion novel or even a short story to end things, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with this ending.
Overall, this book is haunting and atmospheric, blending science and fantasy so thoroughly you won’t know where one ends and the other begins. I’d recommend it to fans of Dawn Kurtagich’s And the Trees Crept In and Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood, those of you who like a touch of horror with your magic.