In the Night Wood

In the Night Wood

by Dale Bailey

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328490810
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/09/2018
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 390,616
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

DALE BAILEY is the critically acclaimed author of seven books, including The End of the End of Everything and The Subterranean Season. His story “Death and Suffrage” was adapted for Showtime’s Masters of Horror television series. His short fiction has won the Shirley Jackson Award and the International Horror Guild Award, has been nominated for the Nebula and Bram Stoker awards, and has been reprinted frequently in best-of-the-year anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. He lives in North Carolina with his family.

Read an Excerpt

Hollow House came to them as such events befall orphans in tales, unexpectedly, and in the hour of their greatest need: salvation in the form of a long blue envelope shoved in among the day’s haul of pizza-delivery flyers, catalogs, and credit card solicitations. That’s how Charles would pitch it to Erin, anyway, sitting across from her in the night kitchen, with the envelope and its faintly exotic Royal Mail stamp lying on the table between them. Yet it felt to Charles Hayden like the culminating moment in some obscure chain of events that had been building, link by link, through all the thirty-six years of his life ​— ​through centuries even, though he could not have imagined that at the time.

Where do tales begin, after all?

Once upon a time.

In the months that followed, those words ​— ​and the stories they conjured up for him ​— ​would echo in Charles’s mind. Little Red Cap and Briar Rose and Hansel and Gretel, abandoned among the dark trees by their henpecked father and his wicked second wife. Charles would think of them most of all, footsore and afraid when at last they chanced upon a cottage made of gingerbread and spun sugar and stopped to feast upon it, little suspecting the witch who lurked within, ravenous with hungers of her own.

Once upon a time.

So tales begin, each alike in some desperate season. Yet how many other crises ​— ​starting points for altogether different tales ​— ​wait to unfold themselves in the rich loam of every story, like seeds germinating among the roots of a full-grown tree? How came that father to be so faithless? What made his wife so cruel? What brought that witch to those woods and imparted to her appetites so unsavory?

So many links in the chain of circumstance. So many stories inside stories, waiting to be told.

Once upon a time.

Once upon a time, at the wake for a grandfather he had never known in life, a boy named Charles Hayden, his mother’s only child, scrawny and bespectacled and always a little bit afraid, sought refuge in the library of the sprawling house his mother had grown up in. “The ancestral manse,” Kit (she was that kind of mother) had called it when she told him they’d be going there, and even at age eight he could detect the bitter edge in her voice. Charles had never seen anything like it ​— ​not just the house, but the library itself, a single room two or three times the size of the whole apartment he shared with Kit, furnished in dark, glossy wood and soft leather, and lined with books on every wall. His sneakers were silent on the plush rugs, and as he looked around, slack-jawed in wonder, the boisterous cries of his cousins on the lawn wafted dimly through the sun-shot Palladian windows.

Charles had never met the cousins before. He’d never met any of these people; he hadn’t even known they existed. Puttering up the winding driveway this morning in their wheezing old Honda, he’d felt like a child in a story, waking one morning to discover that he’s a prince in hiding, that his parents (his parent) were not his parents after all, but faithful retainers to an exiled king. Prince or no, the cousins ​— ​a thuggish trio of older boys clad in stylish dress clothes that put to shame his ill-fitting cords and secondhand oxford (the frayed tail already hanging out) ​— ​had taken an instant dislike to this impostor in their midst. Nor had anyone else seemed particularly enamored of Charles’s presence. Even now he could hear adult voices contending in the elegant chambers beyond the open door, Kit’s querulous and pleading, and those of his two aunts (Regan and Goneril, Kit called them) firm and unyielding.

Adult matters. Charles turned his attention to the books. Sauntering the length of a shelf, he trailed one finger idly along beside him, bump bump bump across the spines of the books, like a kid dragging a stick down a picket fence. At last, he turned and plucked down by chance from the rows of books a single volume, bound in glistening brown leather, with red bands on the spine.

Outside the door, his mother’s voice rose sharply.

One of the aunts snapped something in response.

In the stillness that followed ​— ​even the cousins had fallen silent ​— ​Charles examined the book. The supple leather boards were embossed with some kind of complex design. He studied it, mapping the pattern ​— ​a labyrinth of ridges and whorls ​— ​with the ball of his thumb. Then he opened the book.

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In the Night Wood 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Momma_Becky 3 months ago
In the Night Wood has all the elements for a gripping dark fairy tale - a wonderfully descriptive creepy setting, a lost child, and subtle and not so subtle ties between current and past events. Unfortunately, I wasn't gripped, and other than a few sightings here and there, I found very little in the way of fantasy. In fact, I found most of the story to be rather depressing. The author gives us a premise that hints at something original in the genre, but instead falls back on too many references to classic literature. Granted, those references work well with the dark tone of the story, but I would've liked a little more originality. That aside, my real problem with this story lay in the characters. Flawed or unreliable characters in a tale like this can work well, but there has to be something redeemable there. I didn't find that with Charles. He's certainly flawed, but I didn't see a single thing to like about this man. He's made mistakes and even acknowledges them, but he doesn't learn from the experiences, nor does he attempt to change. Charles' wife, Erin, is little more than a caricature in the story. We know she's grieving and has turned to drugs and alcohol, and that pretty well sums it up. I can empathize with her loss, but with so little development, it felt more like reading about a stranger in the newspaper - we have the bare bones details but no depth. We learn more about Silva during the will Charles cheat or won't he period than we ever learn about Erin. She does eventually come out of her substance induced haze and take some action, but for me, it was just too little, too late. Which is also how I felt about the fantasy aspect of the book. It's not particularly lengthy, coming in at just over two hundred pages, but most of it is heavy and felt much longer than it actually is. In fact, it took me over a week to finally finish it. It was way too easy to set aside for something that held my interest. The author is talented, there are lots of pretty words and the scene setting is brilliant, but there just wasn't much done with that until the big finish. In the end, the story was more a depressing account of two grieving parents and a failing marriage than dark fantasy. That does come in for the last act, but it felt rushed, and much like my thoughts about Erin, it was way too little, too late. This seems to be one of those books that people will either love it or hate it and after reading the blurb, I really wanted to love it. Sadly, I fall into the latter category and come away quite disappointed.
lalatoadstone 4 months ago
This author packed a lot of story into less than 300 pages! The writing is lush without being dense. If you loved The Hazel Wood, this is its adult sister. It is one of the best books I have read this year. I couldn't put it down. It took me firmly by the hand and said, "Come with me." I was approved for an archiving digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
Magerber 5 months ago
When I was about 10 years old, my aunt bought me the book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. That book was part of a series of the same name that told of a family in England who were pulled into a supernatural fight between good and evil forces. It became one of my favorite series, and I still own those books to this day. At various points throughout that series, the children see a large stag, and sometimes a man astride a horse wearing a helm with a stag’s horn upon his head. As I remember it, in the series, these sightings are evocative of the natural world, which does not fight with mankind on the side of good, but nevertheless seems to inherently stand against evil. I bring up The Dark is Rising, because this book reminded me of that series. It is the story of a couple who moves to a house in the English countryside after the tragic death of their young daughter. The house is surrounded by a forest that they are warned is dangerous. The parents are trying to hold their marriage together in the aftermath of the husband’s infidelity and their daughter’s death. They each begin seeing visions of a man wearing stag horns in the woods near their home, and mistake children in the nearby village for their dead daughter. However, the trouble within their relationship, and their own pain keeps them from acknowledging these visions to each other. At the same time, a young girl has disappeared from the nearby village, and the entire book is diffused with a sense of foreboding and evil which emanates from the surrounding woods. Although the book’s finale is set firmly in the rational world, there is still a strong thread of the mystical and unexplained throughout the story. The man in the woods with the stag’s head is, in this book, a figure of evil that casts a shadow over the entire story, and although he also evokes the natural world, he is most definitely a dark figure. I found this book scary and suspenseful, sad and hopeful. I am sure my enjoyment stemmed partly from the way it took me back to those books that I loved so much as a child, but I still think it stands quite well on its own as an eerie fantasy that still has one foot planted firmly in the reality of everyday life. I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!