by Chelsea Bobulski
Published on August 1, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
After her father goes missing in the woods that they protect, Winter tries to seek the truth in what happened, why the wood is changing, and what it all has to do with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in this thrilling YA debut.
When Winter’s dad goes missing during his nightly patrol of the wood, it falls to her to patrol the time portals and protect the travelers who slip through them. Winter can't help but think there's more to her dad's disappearance than she's being told.
She soon finds a young man traveling in the wood named Henry who knows more than he should. He believes if they can work together to find his missing parents, they could discover the truth about Winter’s dad.
The wood is poisoned, changing into something sinister—torturing travelers lost in it. Winter must put her trust in Henry in order to find the truth and those they’ve lost.
Bobulski’s eerie debut is filled with friendship, family, and the responsibilities we choose and those we do not.
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I feel like I’m in that in-between place with this book where I feel like I should have loved it more than I actually did. The Wood is one of those books that blends reality with fantasy, a bit more than what I’d consider magical realism but not enough to really fit in urban fantasy.
We begin with Winter, one of the Guardians of the Wood, a task passed down in her family. She’s also a teen trying to do normal teen things like go to school and hang out with her best friend and talk to boys. But the Wood is more important than anything. I liked how you could see the way her duty wormed its way into every aspect of her life even though she clearly didn’t want it to. As a character, though, I didn’t think Winter was anything special. I neither liked nor disliked her which left the world-building and plot to pick up the slack when it came to engaging me as a reader.
And the world was beautiful. I loved the idea of the Wood and the Guardians, how the Wood was both alive but not, almost sentient in nature, with all the portals to different points throughout history. I’m not one for time-travel books and there’s very little in The Wood regarding the protagonist traveling but she’s charged with sending “travelers” (those who wander through one of those portals) back to their own time. I liked that twist since so often it seems like the main character’s the one doing all the time-traveling.
I can’t say the plot held up as well as the world. It took the first quarter of the book before I was interested. Prior to that I put the book down several times to read something else. I think the point where Henry is introduced was when I started to become really invested in the story, and not because of the romance blossoming between him and Winter. They finally started working toward the end goal, and the action (and tension) was ramped up.
Honestly, based on the synopsis and the opening pages of this book, I thought it was going to be a lot darker, maybe a bit gory. Those pages reminded me a bit of And the Trees Crept In and though I’m not one for horror, usually, I got excited. But The Wood isn’t dark or creepy. You get your typical bad guy mixed in with a little mystery. Which is a shame.
There’s also a tie-in to the Fae and when I read that I got excited again only to find that the Fae don’t make an appearance in the way I expected (I was hoping for some sort of allusion to folklore but didn’t really get much of that).
At the end, I had to double check that this wasn’t a series because though some of the storylines wrapped up, there were a couple that didn’t and I didn’t understand why they were introduced in the first place only to be left like that. Granted, I’m not sure where this would go as a series but I wanted more of a definite ending for certain subplots.
This book was good but not great. I wanted a dark tale and got a unique take on YA fantasy so brownie points for that but I felt The Wood was just… lacking in some areas.