Cover Image: The Waking Forest

The Waking Forest

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ʈᖺᙓ wᗩḱᓮᘉᘐ ℱටᖇᙓᔕʈ
-alyѕѕa weeѕ-
ᴘᴜʙ ᴅᴀᴛᴇ: 28 ᴍᴀʀᴄʜ 2023

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 / 5

I would say the book description is pretty accurate. It was a nice blend of fantasy + sci fi with a little touch of cozy mystery. It’s a lovely little story and I rather enjoyed it, there was just not much going on outside of the book’s description (which is quite accurate which I appreciated). This isn’t necessarily a problem, it just sort of felt anticlimactic after it was all said and done. If you enjoyed Pan’s Labyrinth, I really do think you’d enjoy this. It keeps a nice pace and I didn’t feel like it dragged at all. I read it before bed and it was the perfect bedtime story.

ᴛʜᴀɴᴋs ᴛᴏ ɴᴇᴛɢᴀʟʟᴇʏ ғᴏʀ ᴛʜɪs ᴀᴅᴠᴀɴᴄᴇ ʀᴇᴀᴅᴇʀ ᴄᴏᴘʏ ғᴏʀ ʀᴇᴠɪᴇᴡ.
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I truly wanted to love this book, but it overall missed the mark for me. But I do want to give this author their credit in their absolutely STUNNING ability to build and atmosphere with their beautiful prose that was both melancholic and mysterious. I wanted to rate this read so high just for this alone. The plot, however, was hard for me to connect with. 

The first half of the book alternates between Rhea, a girl puzzled by her reoccurring dream that seems to be becoming more and more life like, and The Witch in the Woods, a young witch who grants wishes to others but longs to hear a story of her own. I quite enjoyed the contrast of these two stories happening at once. But as the stories began to overlap and converge, the plot felt too rushed and predictable. I felt I was missing a connection to the characters themselves which hindered me from caring about the conflicts that ensued. 

Overall, beautiful writing style, but the plot wasn’t quite strong enough. I’m excited to see what this author may do in the future though, as their ability to paint a picture with words is wonderful. 

Thanks NetGalley for the audiobook ARC of this read.
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I REALLY loved this one. I listened to this on audio and it helped add to the dream like quality that the writing has. Fantastical, ornate writing flowed from the narrator’s soothing voice. When the plot line is trying to figure out what is real, this helps immensely. The separate stories weave together until they are one, and they are full of fantasy creatures. Nymphs, witches, mantacors, sphinx, and gorgans to name a few, some people blessed with magic while some are not. This was a great escape from reality! It is one that you go back through to see what you missed the first time around. 

Rhea lives by the shore with her family. Everything is perfect until it’s night, where they all have very vivid dreams. Rhea finally reaches and opens the door she has been waking up before she reached, and sees a terrible sight. She is also having visions of things that aren’t really there. She sees a boy in the shadows, and she makes a deal with him to take away her curse. And then her family starts disappearing one by one. Will she be able to figure out what is happening before it is too late?
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Thank you to the publishers, author and NetGalley for the free copy of this audio book.

I'm pretty split in my opinion on this one. It kept my attention at first but then kind of lost focus on the second half. I think I might have better luck with a physical copy, although the narrator was perfectly fine on this! I'll give it another try some other day.
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Thank you to Netgalley for proving a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.    The novel has been out since 2019 but this audio is just becoming available the last week of March 2023.  

By the description of the novel, it sound like something I would love.  A bit of a dark fantasy/fairytale type of story.
The writing is extremely poetic...almost purple prose.  And that led to the story feeling dreamy and all over the place.  Like the parts of the story weren't connecting for me.  This caused me to not really care what happened to the characters either in the plot or romance.  I really wish I could  have enjoyed this one more because I know there is definitely an audience for this story and the beautiful writing.  It just wasn't writing that aided this type of story.
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The Waking Forest is a pretty and unusual book, reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, but turned around to give us a princess with agency. This is a good YA read.
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The writing in this book is beautiful but unfortunately the story fell short around the 60% mark for me. 
This story has two storylines. One timeline is of a girl living in our world with her sisters. They all seem a little odd, having interesting dreams. When Rhea opens a door in her dream things start to unravel in her life. Her family members disappear one at a time and she makes a friend with a boy made of darkness. 
The second timeline is the story of a witch in the woods who grants wishes. She is told a story by a boy who keeps coming to visit her. 

Essentially this book was a story inside a story inside a story. Unfortunately when the stories come together it began to fall apart. The story became hard to follow and the ending just fell a little flat. 
I think that people will still enjoy reading it and the audiobook was good. The narrator did a good job.
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A wonderfully dreamy and magical fairytale. The writing style is so beautiful and whimsically poetic. I really enjoy writing like this that is almost as much about the words and how they make you feel, as it is about the actual plot of the story.

I found the concept really interesting, like a traditional fairy tale twisted into something new. And the different pieces of the story are woven together so well that it held my attention all the way through. 

The narration was perfectly fine, I don’t feel like it added any extra atmosphere or dimension to the story but nothing about it took away from it or was particularly distracting to me while listening either.
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Can we talk about how perfectly atmospheric this story is? I felt as if I was walking through the forest and lived the colors described. I also loved the beautiful prose. 
I did feel a bit less enamored with the second half of the book and found the receptiveness unnecessary. 
overall this was a lovely story and enjoyed listening to the wonderful narrator!
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The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
4/5 Stars

•••Spoiler free review below•••

The Waking Forest tells two stories in one. In our world, Rhea is plagued by nightmares and the only one who seems to understand is the boy in the shadows. In the magical woods, we follow the forest witch who grants wishes to children in need and spends her nights speaking with a fox who tells her stories.

This is a story of magic, love, loyalty, and the things that we see in the dark. When our stories collide, the adventure begins, and I promise you'll be rooting for our main characters as much as I was.

Read this book if you like:
- wish granting witches
- a strong bond of sisterhood
- interweaving stories
- dream magic
- friendship that spans worlds
- unique magic with world building as you read

The Waking Forest is available in digital and print and will be newly released in audio on March 28th. If it's not already on your tbr, it should be!
Special thanks to Dreamscape Media for sharing a free copy with me in exchange for my honest opinions.
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March 18, 2023
3.5 stars
You start off with two different stories going on. You hear or rather read about a witch who lives in the woods and grants wishes to kids. The other perspective is our main female lead and she suffers from nightmares, sleep walking, hallucinations and a couple other things. She lives with her parents and sisters, has a pet fox. But everything is weird. She’s happy but life doesn’t feel right. She dreams of the attic and decides to face her fears and sleep up there but while laying in the dark a boys voices comes from the shadows of the attic. She doesn’t know this boy, can’t see him but he “feels” familiar. 
He makes a deal with her, if she can guess his name he will lift her curse. But now her family starts disappearing one by one and it’s up to her to save them.
But now reality doesn’t seem much like reality anymore. And she questions if this life is real.

Possible spoilers ahead-
In general I thought the book was OKAY. It’s not poorly written, nor is the plot or storyline lacking in any way really; to me there just wasn’t enough action - and that’s just my own personal taste, I like a lot of action. 
The suspense and mystery aspect of it was great - and although I was confused for a couple minutes when it was a dream within a dream - and then she was in her real world and trying to match all her sisters names to creature/ people she was gathering.
But it was unexpected and I enjoyed that aspect of it. 
All in all a decent read/ listen- lady who did the audiobook version did a great job.

I will be doing a separate review on my YouTube channel within the next week.
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Rhea has visions of a forest no one else can see. The Witch calls the forest home, and children visit her there to have their wishes granted.

The first half of this book was great. I really enjoyed seeing the two storylines intertwine, and the spookiness really hit. I adored the Witch storyline especially--the strange, dark fantasy elements, the flower in her chest that she plucks petals from to grant wishes, her collection of little pieces of people that she takes as payment. The prose was dreamy and flowery, perfect for the story (overdone once in a while, sure, but overall really fed the tone of the book). Unfortunately, all the dreams and visions and intertwining timelines are resolved at the midpoint. And then we just have a magic-princess-needs-to-save-her-kingdom-from-the-big-bad-baddie YA fantasy thing, and it feels like a completely different book. There were very few things from the second half that I enjoyed, and most of the lines or moments that I found really corny were in that part. After everything, it was just...unsatisfying. It's difficult to describe without spoilers, but one of the biggest disappointments was that our protagonist ends up feeling like a very inconsistent person, and a lot of her got left behind by the end. Also! I was really hoping for some kind of contextualization for the symbolism and body-horror-esque aesthetic of the Witch, and that also just kind of didn't happen.

Katelyn Levering did a great job with the narration. I'm easy to spook, but I'm also quick to laugh if dramatic stuff is over-acted in audiobooks. Katelyn delivered the spook very well, and I really felt Rhea's uneasiness and was never yanked out of the story. The best narrators make you forget you're not just listening to the character, and I think Katelyn pulled that off with this one.

All in all, this baby gets three stars for the stuff that I did like and for all its potential.

Thank you to NetGalley for the audiobook ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a dark and grim novel about family, loss, and self-mastery. It has great potential, and I enjoyed it enough to finish the audiobook. Sometimes I struggled to follow the complex and twisted storylines, which jump from one plane of existence to another. Yet, the imagery and wordsmith are spot on with almost a poetic, gritty feel.

It was a unique read for me, and I’m glad to extend myself to alternative writing style.
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“Sometimes we can have a say in the way we fall apart.”

This was so much darker than I was expecting! With heavy themes of grief, loss, and how difficult it can be to be the only one who remembers a loved one who is gone. The first half to two-thirds of the book were emotionally raw, that by the time the secret identities were revealed you felt utterly fatigued. While this did have a happy ending, it felt lukewarm after such a powerful opening.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the opportunity to listen and review.
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I received this arc as an audio book. I found it very hard to follow along and confusing at times. The narrator was also drab. I would recommend reading this versus audio so you can 100% focus on the storyline. I will give it another try that way :)
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I'd love to say that this was for me, but it most certainly wasn't. The Waking Forest is the perfect example of Purple Prose and I didn't love it. Sometimes, when done correctly, it can be used to make a book feel more like a fairytale and others it just feels like it needs a good edit. 

Everything here wasn't even that bad, it just wasn't executed as well as it could have been. The tangled web of stories are all strong on their own, then when it started coming back together it just didn't work at all. 

I'm shelving this one as of now, maybe one day I'll pick it back up again in a hard copy format to see if it was just the audio narration that lost me.
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I really enjoyed this story! I went in blind to this one and was happily surprised. I found myself at the heart of a loving family with an intriguing girl who is plagued by her dreams/nightmares. I was hooked and absolutely invested in this tale. There's a great cast of characters - Rhea, her fox, her sisters, the boy in shadow, the witch of the woods... I also appreciated the talk and depiction of anxiety in this one. I do admit that about half way when the two plots converge it was a bit of a bumpy ride at first but nevertheless, I found this book was a unique, interesting and refreshing take! The writing is lyrical and beautiful. It's a bit slow burn but I think definitely worth checking out especially if you like older fairy tales that can be a bit dark and creepy. 

I listened to the audiobook and the narrators and the atmosphere created were perfection!

Content warnings: creepy dreams/hallucinations, anxiety, death, grief, blood and gore depiction, branding, slavery. 

A huge thanks to Dreamscape media and Netgalley for the copy for review. All opinions are my own.
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I don’t even know where to start with this review. This book was beautiful, lyrical, magically lush, and kept me on my toes. The characters are complex and well written.  I was fascinated by the story of the witch in the woods and the story that was being told to her by the fox boy. I was equally enthralled with Rhea and her sisters. I was so sucked Into the writing and the characters that I was completely blindsided when the story started to turn. From there it got even better. I loved the creatures and their world. I loved the magic system and the tie ins between the beginning of the book and the second half. This is a perfect example of fantasy done right.
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I loved the way that this story was told, even if it was obvious where it was going. And I really liked the familial dynamic. 
I liked the first part more than the second, but overall, this was a really good book.
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I gave this book two valiant attempts but I simply can’t finish it. DNF  at 70%, skim-read the ending to know that I’m not missing anything. 

I can vividly remember the release of The Waking Forest,  as this cover was one of the best things to happen that month. I held  off on picking it up though, because of the mixed reception from early  reviewers. When offered a copy in exchange for review myself, I decided  to give it a try, hoping to get my Grimm-dark (pun intended) fairytale  quotum for the year in. 

The premise and the setting sound like  something I should enjoy. Unfortunately, the execution is so all over  the place that this book was unsalvageable for me. The first and most  obvious issue is that the plot completely disjointed, to the point where  I had no idea what was happening. Wees attempts to weave together two  storylines (Rhea’s and the witch’s), but ends up with a tangled mess of  yarns instead. This confusion wasn’t helped by the fact that none of the  characters, nor their narrative voices, really have any distinguishing  traits that made them memorable to me, making everything blur together  in a way. 
The plot itself meanders, seemingly without purpose, as if  the author was “discovery writing” rather than working towards a clear  end-goal. As a result, the resolution of the story comes in the form of  some of the most overdone cliché tropes and plot beats in YA-fantasy,  that I’m frankly tired of seeing. Seriously, it’s for a reason  that I actively avoid any YA-fantasy that mentions the words “lost  princess reclaiming the throne” in the synopsis. 

Last but not least, I had some major gripes with the writing-style. My  personal tolerance for “lyrical writing” is pretty high; in fact I love  it usually. This however, is what you find in the dictionary under the  definition of “purple prose”. Overwritten sentences, non-sensical metaphors 

"Except for a the few popped pustules of stars and the waning wart of the moon, the sky is dark." 

and deeply cringe-worthy character descriptors

"This boy, this Darkness, an inoculation, my veins frothing with fright, foaming with fascination."

I can see there being an audience for this book. If you’re okay with all  of the above, and are looking for a classic, early-2010’s-feeling young  adult fantasy with a focus on fairytales and stories within stories,  this one might be for you. Unfortunately, to me, this was the kind of  debut to put me off an author for a long time. I’m all for second  chances, but unless Wees’ next book is a miraculous hit, I won’t be  picking up any of her works from now on. 

Many thanks to the  publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an review-copy in exchange  for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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