Tag Archives: emily carroll

Out of the woods: books set in forests

I’m not entirely sure why forests are such a powerful setting and symbol in fantasy. Maybe it’s something to do with fairy tales, maybe something to do with how much of the land we now inhabit was once covered with vast acres of trees. Regardless, I love books that have forests as a main setting and I wanted to highlight some of them. They might engage with the mythology of forests in different ways, but they’re all playing with that sense of magic and danger.

out of the woods

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: The forest that Hazel and Ben enter plays a major part in this haunting book.

The Jinx trilogy by Sage Blackwood: The Jinx trilogy is almost entirely set in the Urwald, a magical forest that’s full of danger and secrets.

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow: In Otter’s world any shadow can hold one of the deadly White Hands, and so the forest that surrounds her home is both beautiful and terrifying.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: Carroll draws on fairy tale influences to weave her extremely creepy story of a girl who goes out into the dark woods.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye: The forest in this book is more benign than many of the others I’m featuring here, but it’s extremely delightful.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrand: Finley’s semi-imagined forest, the Everwood, drives a lot of this book, as well as being the place Finley feels the safest.

In the Forests of Serre (and several others) by Patricia McKillip: McKillip loves to write about forests, and she often does so with a sense of the edges where they turn magical.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne: Like the woods in The Ordinary Princess, The Hundred-Acre Woods are more benign than most of these stories. It’s still a magical and enchanting land.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: A magical forest where the trees speak Latin and time is out of joint should definitely be on this list.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede: I mean, they’re called The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Also, a wonderful mix of funny and serious.

 

Am I missing a favorite book set in a forest or woods? Let me know! I’d love to read more of them.

 

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Recent Reading: Sheinkin, Cypess, Carroll, Neumeier

port chicago 50Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin: I have had somewhat mixed feelings about Sheinkin’s non-fiction in the past, mostly due to his tendency to fudge some of the details just a little. However, I thought Port Chicago 50 did an excellent job of letting the people who were involved tell their own story, while at the same time giving the context and background for readers. I also appreciated that Sheinkin several times said, “We simply don’t know what actually happened at this point.” I would much rather have this kind of statement than a supposition or even a recreation. This is an important and powerful story, and casts light on an often-forgotten moment in the history of civil rights in America. I think it will work best for readers who are ready to grapple with the idea that courage doesn’t always get an outward reward, but I would certainly recommend it for a wide audience.

Book source: public library
Book information: 2014, Roaring Book Press; mg/YA non-fiction

death markedDeath Marked/a by Leah Cypess: After reading and mostly liking Cypess’s Death Sworn last year, I definitely wanted to read the second book in the duology. Ileni has left the assassins’ cave and is now in the sorcerers’ power. But what she finds there will test her loyalty all over again. As with the first book, my reaction is mostly positive. I like Ileni quite a bit, and especially the way she’s shown to be powerful without being the awesomest everrr!!!! Her power does have limitations and a lot of the book is her grappling with the moral issues that her use of the sorcerers’ lodestones brings up. At the same time, I felt that the romance subplot never worked for me, even less than it did in the first book. And I found the conclusion more than a bit abrupt and not entirely convincing. All in all, this is one I perhaps wanted to like more than I did, although I suspect that some readers will love it.

Book source: eARC from Edelweiss
Book information: 2015, Greenwillow Books; YA fantasy

through the woodsThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll: Genuinely frightening graphic novel with fairy tale echoes. I recommend NOT reading this one right before bed, as I unfortunately did. The art and story work marvelously together, and I love the way the pictures sometimes flow out of the confinement of boxes to take over the whole page. I felt that the overall conceit reminded me a bit of Poisoned Apples, but the themes are more subtly dealt with here and in general, I liked Through the Woods better. If you don’t like to be scared, this probably isn’t the book for you, but it’s dark and delicious and will definitely be sticking with me.

Book source: public library
Book information: 2014, Margaret McElderry books; YA graphic novel

lord of the changing windsLord of the Changing Winds by Rachel Neumeier: So, I honestly thought I had read this book, and only got it out to re-read it. It turns out that I hadn’t read it at all, or at least have no memory or record of doing so! Which is a shame, since it’s a really marvelous story. (Also, there’s the whole favorite author/Twitter friend thing.) I love the worldbuilding here, both the details of everyday life and the wider political issues and implications. (There is also some truly excellent food.) Although the story takes on big topics, there is at the same time an intimacy to it. We stick pretty closely to two viewpoints and the arcs of these two main characters are pretty closely interwoven. I found that I liked this one with the same part of my reading brain that likes Andrea K. Höst’s books (which is not surprising at all). I’ve already devoured the second and am part-way through the third book.

Book source: public library
Book information: 2010, Orbit; adult fantasy (though excellent YA crossover)

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