After the Forest

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Pub Date 03 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 20 Nov 2023


After the Forest is a dark and enchanting fantasy debut from Kell Woods that explores the repercussions of a childhood filled with magic and a young woman contending with the truth of “happily ever after.”

Ginger. Honey. Cinnamon. Flour.

Twenty years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Their mother and stepmother are long dead, Hans is deeply in debt from gambling, and the countryside lies in ruin, its people starving in the aftermath of a brutal war.

Greta has a secret, though: the witch's grimoire, hidden away and whispering in Greta's ear for the past two decades, and the recipe inside that makes the best gingerbread you've ever tasted. As long as she can bake, Greta can keep her small family afloat.

But in a village full of superstition, Greta and her mysteriously addictive gingerbread, not to mention the rumors about her childhood misadventures, is a source of gossip and suspicion.

And now, dark magic is returning to the woods and Greta's magic—magic she is still trying to understand—may be the only thing that can save her. If it doesn't kill her first.

After the Forest is a dark and enchanting fantasy debut from Kell Woods that explores the repercussions of a childhood filled with magic and a young woman contending with the truth of “happily ever...

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ISBN 9781250852489
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Featured Reviews

After the Forest, the debut novel by Kell Woods, is a dark and enchanting tale that explores the aftermath of a childhood filled with magic and a young woman's struggle to find her place in the world. Set in a village full of superstition, the story follows Greta and Hans, who are struggling to make ends meet in a post-war world where people are starving.

Greta has a secret that has helped her keep her small family afloat – a witch's grimoire that she's had since childhood, with a recipe inside that makes the best gingerbread in the world. But her baking skills, combined with the rumors about her past, make her a source of gossip and suspicion in the village.

As dark magic returns to the woods, Greta's magic may be the only thing that can save her, but it's also the one thing that could lead to her demise. Woods' writing is evocative and immersive, with a vividly realized world that feels both magical and dangerous. The characters are complex and flawed, and the plot is full of twists and turns that keep the reader engaged until the very end.

After the Forest is a hauntingly beautiful story that explores the repercussions of a childhood steeped in magic, and the power of love, family, and forgiveness in the face of darkness. Kell Woods has crafted a remarkable debut that will stay with readers long after the final page.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of After the Forest.

Fairytale retellings are all the rage now and After the Forest gives readers a new twist on Hansel and Gretel.

And no, they're not witch hunters.

I can't believe this is the author's debut.

It's well written, there's great world building and historical context.

You really get the lay of the land, the desolation and bleak despair of the locals after the ravages of war and the uncertainty that comes with living in a village ruled by the wealthy and elite, surviving on harvests that can make or break your livelihood.

The first half of the book really drew me in; Gretel and Hans are now young adults; the former living alone and keeping her and her louse of a brother fed and housed with her 'magical' baking skills.

Gretel must deal with the typical prejudices all young women face when they're independent and fierce; not to mention unfounded rumors of how she and Hans escaped from the wicked witch years ago.

I loved the magical aspects of the book, the grimoire that Gretel uses, and which speaks to her, Mira's revelations and teaching Gretel to reach the full extent of her power.

But, i also expected the narrative to focus on Gretel and Hans, on their relationship as siblings, on their bond or lack of one.

Instead, Hans, like a lot of men you find in books, is a lout, a gambler, suffering from PTSD, I'm sure, after the trauma of what had been done to him by the witch.

He's not unkind but he's also not a very good brother to Gretel, after all she's done for him.

Then, it took a strange turn or two. Or three.

The author began to borrow elements from other fairytales, like Snow White.

We have an ageless old witch, dead sisters, shapeshifting wolves, an evil dwarf, and a man-bear.

And a romance.

I'm not against romance but I was hoping for something darker, more magic, fear, and power. Gretel and Hans working together to beat the bad guys, maybe.

The narrative began to drag, for me, especially at the end, when Gretel finds herself at the witch's castle.

The narrative really lost some momentum with scenes between Gretel and the dwarf.

He's described as a major power player, yet doesn't factor into the story until the very end.

His character feels unnecessary, added only as a stand-in for lecherous men.

He doesn't use magic to demonstrates his power, nor is he wily or charismatic. He's just a gross, creepy dude.

Gretel is a formidable character. I'd like to be her friend; she's kind, loyal, and understanding. She's young, so naturally, she's also impetuous and impulsive, but I understand why.

The ending is mostly happy, at least by Grimm brothers standard, and overall, a good read.

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If you love a classic of the Grimm fairytale with all the magic and texture you crave from a witchy read, then this book is for you'! I could not put this book down, I had to keep following Greta!

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The Hansel and Gretl story we all know ends when they escape the witch’s clutches by pushing her in the oven. Happily ever after right?

Set in Medieval Germany, this story begins in the aftermath of -here- Hans and Greta’s flight from their horrific ordeal. Back at home, but with their father now deceased, they are orphaned and impoverished, scraping out a life at the edge of the very woods they were abandoned in.

But Greta has a dangerous secret that’s been helping her and her brother survive - an enchanted spellbook that she took when she fled the gingerbread house. Everytime she uses it, she risks being accused of being a witch. But poverty and persecution are not her only problems. Soon strange people and animals start appearing in town and the woods, forcing Greta to once again fight for her life and those she loves, using everything she has - a little bit of magic and a whole lot of hope, bravery, and grit.

Featuring elements of romance and horror, legendary creatures, immortal curses, and a strong female lead, this action-packed novel will appeal to fans of Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, Albanese’s Hester, and Gornichec’s The Witch’s heart.

This enthralling debut novel by the appropriately named Kell Woods is a skillful combination of Fantasy, Historical Fiction and Fairy Tale Retelling.

The only caveat I would add is the there were scenes of graphic animal cruelty that were hard to stomach.

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Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced copy.

Of all the fairy tales that are having a new life, Hansel and Gretel is not one I'd expected, but After the Forest is more of a 'what happened afterwards' and in a way 'what really happened.' There is definitely magic in the air when the story begins. It carefully unfolds in a way that keeps the story moving forward and holds your interest.

The fairy tale that opens each chapter brings the whole story together near the end and is woven together very adeptly by the author. Greta, the main character, also has a few wonderful moments of realizing that the old world way of men telling her to stay behind in order to stay safe it, frankly, BS.

It's a strong story and a strong young woman who takes control of her own life in a way even she never anticipated.

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After the Forest is jam-packed with fairy tale tropes and twists in a fresh and interesting way. I personally love a fairy tale re-telling and After the Forest was no different.

The main character is Greta, but she’s long past getting lost in the woods and escaping an old crone. Well, it was in her past but that event still haunts her.

After the Forest features good magic and bad magic, evil witches, brave men, and an all around stunning cast of characters led by the infallible Greta.

Thank you for the opportunity to read and review After the Forest. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It’s 5/5 for me and perfect for fans of Hannah Whitten and fairy tale re-tellings!

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I loved this so much!! It was so good it kept me engrossed in the story and I had to know how it ended!! Amazing book!
I just reviewed After the Forest by Kell Woods. #NetGalley
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This was a fun next story to follow the Hansel and Gretel story. The grimoire was perfect, almost like the devil/angel on Greta's shoulder. I loved the town and the bears and wolves and poisoned apples and I want to live there! The depth and darkness of this retelling feels more in line with the Grimm tales. Gorgeous cover!

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