"Bewitching, sensuous, and spiked with the unexpected--The Waking Forest is a fever dream you won't ever want to leave."-Joan He, author of The Descendent of the Crane
The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She's desperate to know more--until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.
To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.
The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea's and the Witch's paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?
"A stunning, spooky, and lyrical debut....The pacing is taut as the tension steadily ramps up, creating an atmospheric read that is impossible to put down. A sure hit for readers of edgy fantasy and fans of Stephanie Garber's Caraval or Heidi Heilig's The Girl from Everywhere."-SLJ, Starred Review
"[A] masterfully woven fantasy debut...[with] an intricate pattern crafted to twist, invert, and fall apart with exquisite precision. Into the woods like never before."-Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"Wees layers worlds and characters with cleverness and subtlety,...darkly satisfying."-The Bulletin
"A twisting mix of modern story and fantasy tale."-Booklist
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Let’s start with the Witch in the Woods.
Only children could find her, the Witch, led by foxes faintly glowing in the darkness between sleeping and waking. Together they traveled through dreamland until they came to an archway like an eye half open, big enough only to crawl through.
Beneath the stars, the moon a bouquet of blue-violet bruises, the Witch lived in a castle with turrets of unnaturally thick tree trunks and broad walls of entwined branches and leaves, the battlements formed by the oversize molars of some unfathomable animal. The crisscrossed bones of the portcullis gleamed in the milky midnight light as the drawbridge of melded cloven hooves lowered over a rushing red river.
At the end of a winding hallway illuminated by row upon row of skeleton-hand sconces, each holding a steady flame that burned without the aid of wick or wax or wood, the Witch sat in a seat carved from a canine tooth nearly twice her height, situated at the very center of the castle in a wide, round room with no ceiling, the walls stretching up, up, up and curving inward, just slightly. The foxes could see her, every facet and feature, all at once, a full picture. They grinned and curled up beside her bare feet, licking their paws and waiting and watching.
A single fox with orange fur so dark it was almost red perched on the arm of her throne, watching now as a troop of bright-eyed foxes, trailed by a girl and a boy with their arms intertwined, eagerly approached the inimitable Witch.
The children could focus only on one small piece of her at a time: lips glossed in silver starlight, onyx eyes lined with gold glitter, curling black hair threaded with pearls. Kneecaps hard as diamonds, just visible beneath the hem of her scarlet dress; thin hands and long fingers, nails short and bitten. Smooth skin stretched taut over the sticks and bulbs of her bones, slick and shining with an eternal, unbreakable fever.
As the pair came closer, the Witch saw that these were not quite her usual visitors. The girl was not a child. She had seen sixteen summers, or perhaps seventeen, nearly the same number as the Witch herself. The girl had long, light hair, and blue eyes with lashes so fair, they could hardly be seen. She was a spill of sunshine in the shape of a girl, golden and firm, and she walked as if afraid she might fall right through the floor, every step delicate, tentative.
The boy was even older than the girl and was surely her brother, for though they looked nothing alike, there seemed to be a kind of magnetic trust that kept them tethered side by side. He had an angular face with lips red as wine, hair black as soot, flesh paler than a ghost moon at high noon. There were gashes on the backs of his hands, old ones and new ones, crossing in all directions, shallow ones over deep gouges, scabbed over and reopened.
The Witch curled her fingers against the arms of her throne, not quite fists--but almost. She scratched the slick ivory surface, the skirl of nail against tooth echoing around the chamber. The red-furred fox at her side lifted its head and growled. She had never growled at any of the children before.
When the Witch spoke, her voice was cream burnt at the edges, unspooling from her long dark throat like twisted obsidian silk.
“I am the Witch of Wishes,” she said. “What would you ask of me?”
The children knew exactly what to ask for, always, and that was why only they could find her. But these two were much older than those little ones, and so not content to merely receive their wish and be on their way.
“What are you?” breathed the girl, staring squarely at the Witch while her brother beside her smiled, lips pressed together as if he already knew the answer. But the longer he stood there gazing at the Witch’s castle, the more his smile hardened into a grimace. He looked at the snapping foxes and the lopsided stars and the brambly walls, and finally back at the Witch.
“What is this place?” he asked. “Where are we?”
The Witch smiled, her maw growing wider, so no one would ever guess how her atoms were held together by an unheard howl. Her world, her castle--it had not wanted to be created. It had been pulled out of her sleeping heart, and it had hurt. The pain had never faded, a perpetual poison with no known antidote. But she could not, would not collapse; her world must go on.
And even as she grinned, she did not stop scraping her throne, peeling enamel instead of her own skin, the itch inflaming her backward-beating heart.
“What would you ask of me?” she said again.
The girl grabbed her wrinkled skirt and curtsied, a movement quick and clean, her cream-curls bouncing around her shoulders.
“I wish to stay here with you,” said the girl in a rush. “I want to grant wishes to those who need them most. I want always to live in a dream.”
The Witch hesitated; no visitor had ever asked something like this of her before. It was the one wish she knew she should not grant--this world was her own, and she must live here alone. For the girl this was only a resting place, a sighing place, its gate open to her once and then never again. To stay would be to sleep, neither dead nor alive, on and on until the end of time.
No, the Witch decided, she would not grant the girl’s wish.
But the girl did not have to know that.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Title: The Waking Forest Author: Alyssa Wees (Debut book) Release Date: March 12, 2019 Genre: YA, Fantasy Series?: Stand alone LGBTQ?: Unclear People of Color?: Unclear (fantasy worlds) Bechdel Test: Yes! Trigger Warnings: None I received The Waking Forest as an eARC in exchange for an honest review. This is a fantastic YA fantasy with a fairy tale vibe (maybe some Snow White remnants?) as well as a fae world with witch wishes, sphinxes, and more. The women are strong and fantastic characters that I adored. The Princess does not wait to be rescued, but she does have a great family and strong squad by her side. It's a fun story where one never quite knows what is real and what is imagined - both are quite extraordinary. I also thought the concept of the double heart was the most beautiful and perfect way to describe the extra sense of magic that some are born with. The world itself can be very cruel and Wees did a fantastic job describing it and making the reader feel the urgency of the heroine's problems. There was also the beautiful moral of how families come in all shapes and sizes. It can include those whose blood you share but can also be chosen. The way the world is woven together feels like magic! Alyssa Wees is a master writer and I look forward to all her future works! It reminds me of Hazel Wood, a novel-length version of Language of Thorns, or the Fairies of Dreamdark. I would recommend it for lovers of fairy tales, fae worlds, and fantasy as well as fantasy in general. I would recommend this for all ages.
Thank you Netgalley for this ARC! “A dream can’t hurt me, though. Can it?” First, I have to say that the writing is beautiful and so descriptive. It paints a vivid, magical picture of such a unique world. It’s almost poetic. The cover is also gorgeous and completely matches the book. It is what made me want to read it from the start. However, I found myself quite confused at some parts of this book. At first it was intriguing, but towards the end I just felt lost. Part one was easier to follow and had me completely wanting to read more and more. But when I hit part two, I had to keep rereading paragraphs to try to understand what was going on. The transition wasn’t as smooth as I hoped it would be. I’m sure some will love it, but unfortunately I did not. I do think this author has amazing potential though!
First, I want to thank NetGalley for this ARC! I saw the cover and read the synopsis and was 100% ready to lose myself in the fantasy. This book exceeded all of my hopes, and was like three stories in one. We are thrust into this narrative spun with golden threads of description. I swear, this author weaves perfect pictures of places you could have never been and things you could have never seen with the most vibrant and sometimes grotesque verbiage. Things like ‘the color of a picked scab’ or talk of a ‘spider’s sky’ that is laced with silk— it was so beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. We start out with the Witch of the Woods, then are brought to Rhea and her family, then lastly to a princess. The way these three are woven together are like a priceless, centuries old tapestry, and you are kept guessing until the last act of the story when everything is laid bare. There is magic, fear, love, and mystical beings, but also some standout nuggets of wisdom. Some of my favorites dealt with the focus on family; not just blood relation, but how important your chosen family is as well, and the message of the imperativeness of being yourself; each small facet, each mask that you wear. You can be small, yet powerful. You can be frightened, but stand tall. You don’t ever have to be one thing in life. You should taste everything that it has to offer, and scream. Make your voice heard no matter how much it may scare those around you. I can’t wait to see what this author does next, and I will gladly follow her into the Woods.
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars The writing is beautiful, however it really lacks depth. By depth, I mean that the character development and world building seemed to lack and be one dimensional. It has a good plot, but could have been delved into more to make this amazing. I do like the plot twist that happened mid way in the book, but once it occurred, I became very bored because the mystery of the book was gone.
THE WAKING FOREST was nothing like I was expecting it to be. It was a TRIP, but in the best of ways. To be honest, I see-sawed between 5 and 4 stars once I got around the 60% mark, but the moment I read the final line, I hit 5 stars without a second thought as a giant grin spread across my face. The first half of this book was amazing. 5 stars hands down the whole way up to the midpoint. The voice was unique and gripping. The prose was EXQUISITE—I truly don’t think I’ve ever read a book that uses such intriguing similes and metaphors that are perfectly analogous to what’s being described. As a writer myself, I always appreciate beautiful, lyrical lines, though I feel that readers of all types will find beauty in the words on these pages. Though the book did have a few flaws in my eyes that made me consider dropping its rating—a little telling at times, a plot that completely shifted and became a little confusing after the midpoint, worldbuilding and ideas that weren’t fully developed—I ended up with a 5 star rating because it was such a great and original STORY. Despite the confusing shift in worlds, I felt transported. I felt like I was a young girl again, sitting on the floor in my classroom as the teacher read to the class. And it was that mysterious and gripping storytelling coupled with fantastic writing that had me flipping through pages as fast as I could. Alyssa Wees has become an instant-read for me, and I can’t wait to devour another one of her books in the future.
eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley The Waking Forest follows young Rhea and her visions of a witch in a forest. A boy comes and visits her in the darkness of her family's attic and stranger things continually happen. She must uncover the truth before its too late. I was pretty hyped to read this book and in some ways it lived up to that hype and in other ways it fell short. This book is categorized as young adult/teen but I would say it is more middle-grade. The plot of the book was intriguing and the way she wove in a lyrical story in between was magical. The book is written with two perspectives and eventually they collide into one which is very unique and something I have not seen before. Usually I am one to complain about slow pacing but the problem for me was that in this case it felt rushed and some of the plot was not fleshed out enough. The characters were also a let down for me. I didn't feel connected to them and that killed a few of the plot twists. There wasn't enough background to any of the characters, including Rhea. Overall, I liked the plot of the book and it was different than others I have read before but the lack of character development is what ultimately lost me.
The Waking Forest in my perspective is when Chronicles of Narnia meets into the woods with secrets and as you read on, you will immediately be pulled into the action. It's hard not to follow Rhea's path to her curiosity of the Waking Forest and when you meet the witch and learn about her, it will force the reader to find out not only what happens but learn about the relationship between Rhea and the witch and whose side will they choose and how will it affect the whole story. This book will do wonderful in our YFantasy collection and we look forward to adding it to our library collection. That is why we give this book 5 stars!
With a description that reads nearly like a fairy tale and a magical cover, do I really need to explain why I wanted to read this book? The writing is lush, beautiful, and velvety, with imagery that will transport you to another place. Some lines I re-read several times because of the way the author weaves words together. There are basically three stories in this book, and the chapters alternate. Somewhere around the middle or so, it's revealed how they're connected. Rhea and her family are adorable and quirky, and the Darkness in the attic is spine-tingling and alluring. It's a nice touch. With the first half of the book, I was all in and just wanted to find a secluded corner with no interruptions. And then I got to the second half, and it lost me. It has the feel of a fairy tale, but I felt untethered, and unsure of what was real in the story. Even the dialogue was off, sounding more juvenile, and I found myself skimming the pages instead of savoring them as I had in the first half of the book. Many other reviewers loved the dreamy, storybook feel of this novel, but I need to feel more grounded in my reading, with a better grasp of the plot. Even though it turned out not to be for me, I'd still recommend this book because of the extraordinary writing, and I wouldn't hesitate to read another novel by this author in the future. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.