Cover Image: A History of Wild Places

A History of Wild Places

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Member Reviews

Sometimes, there must be sacrifices. 

The question is, how much and for what in return? Welcome to Pastoral, an isolated commune trapped by the sickness that infects the woods around them and even those who dare enter it. 

A place where Maggie St. James, author of dark children's fairy tales, was suspected to be heading to 7 years ago but was never seen again. The very place Travis Wren tracked her to two years ago using a special ability that allows him to catch glimpses of the past through objects. Before he himself disappeared. 

We then follow three individuals at Pastoral as they discover clues that lead them to believe their safe and happy community isn't all as it seems. 

Ernshaw does an excellent job of setting up an ominous feeling from the start and creates a creepy atmosphere with rich descriptions and eerie figurative language. 

It's an intense read right up to the thrilling, twisty end that will leave readers full of both hope and fear, and questioning those ultimate life decisions to find our own happiness.
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The Village meets The Hazel Wood. Ernshaw definitely has talent for making spooky forests come to life. I was intrigued by the mystery and the chapters are short so it reads quickly despite being almost 400 pages. I would have loved to have gotten even more lore -- about the fairytales, about Pastoral, and even more about the characters a little. They were present and engaging, but this is definitely more for the mystery reader who is drawn more to plot development and world-building than deep dives into characters. Cultish compounds in the woods seem to be gaining traction as a setting (Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon also released this year) and I have to say: I'm here for this trend.

All in all, atmospheric and twisty -- this was a great mystery.
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I’d like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for this e-ARC.

This story was so captivating!! Definitely worth your time to read!
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Shea Ernshaw hasn’t just dipped a toe into adult fiction, but jumped all the way in and I am HERE FOR IT! 

A young author, Maggie St. James, has gone missing and Travis Wren has been hired to search for her with his gifted ability to see more than what’s there. His search takes him to Pastoral, a secluded community deep in the woods.

Inside Pastoral, we have three narrators, Theo, his wife Calla and her sister Bee. They have all grown up within this community and have been warned of the deadly world outside their boundaries. But, Theo is restless and doesn’t know why. When he finds a truck in the woods, the clues start piling up to the fact that both Maggie and Travis came to Pastoral at some point… 

The build up in this book is intense and anticipatory. I couldn’t put it down. I just needed to see what was going to happen next. The unraveling of this story was perfection, leaving me right on the edge the whole time. And there is so much I wasn’t expecting in this book, leaving me pleasantly surprised that I didn’t foresee and twists. That never happens!!
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* I was sent a e arc from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own *

I absolutely loved A History of Wild Places. It was my most anticipated book of 2021. I loved the fairytale vibes and the story kept me guessing until the very end! I had suspicions of what was going to happen, but never knew for sure. I loved Bee and Calla’s relationship. And the spooky vibes that are throughout the story. Shea Ernshaw is my absolute favorite author and I cannot wait to read more from her. 10/10 stars. I would recommend for fans of The Hazel Woods because I felt like the atmosphere was really similar.
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First of all I would like to thank Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Shea Ernshaw did it again!! I’ve read her other two young adult books and loved. This is her first adult book and let me tell you it does not disappoint. I love the writing it’s very vivid and atmospheric. The story just blew my mind! 20% left to finish the book I was very emotional. 

The story starts with Travis looking for Maggie St James; a writer, that is missing. Then Travis goes missing too. The story is told from 3 different points of view Theo, Calla, and Bee. The secrets that unfold throughout the book took me by surprise. 

I love how Shea Ernshaw can just take you to the setting of the book and you feel like you are there. In a History if Wild places the story takes place in Pastoral. It’s a place with a community and they all know each other. The place is ruled/governed by Levi. Pastoral is inside the forest it’s secluded from the city. Everyone knows everyone and their business. Pastoral gave me creepy vibes it’s definitely not a place I would like to live or be part of the community.
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This is Shea Ernshaw's third novel and first attempt for adults. As usual, her writing style and premise completely pulled me into A History of Wild Places. Maggie St. James has been missing for five years, and Travis Wren has been hired by her parents to find her. Travis has an interesting gift--he can see peoples' pasts via the objects he touches. He views his as mostly a curse ever since he couldn't stop his sister's suicide, and the Maggie St. James job is the only thing between him and driving into the Canada wilds never to return. But he's armed with one of Maggie's trinkets, and off he goes into the wilderness, stumbling across an outpost in the middle of nowhere and a shocked man who is very, very afraid of him. 

The novel then breaks into multiple POV between members of the commune Pastoral: Theo, Calla, and Bee. Theo and Calla are keeping secrets from each other, and Bee is in love with the commune's leader, Levi. Things seem relatively peaceful in Pastoral, until a baby is born weak and sick. It needs a doctor, but Levi won't allow anyone to leave, or allow anyone in. You see, the trees are rotting and they can make people rot, too. Leaving is a death sentence. No one has come into Pastoral in over a decade, not since the pox infected the trees. So the community begins a slow disintegration, and not everything is as it seems, especially when Theo and Calla start discovering hidden items in their house suggesting someone else has recently lived there, maybe even with them.

So the set up is super creepy! I loved all of that! I enjoyed watching Theo and Calla piece things together, although I thought Bee's struggle with Levi was the more compelling part of the novel, even if Levi himself was a bit of a mystery. The most difficult aspect of the novel was getting a grip on why all of this was happening. I didn't see that clearly. It's explained in part, but it didn't resonate. Additionally, it felt like a missed opportunity to connect Travis's gift to the greater narrative, so ultimately Travis's touch ability feels like a plot device to get him to the action. Nothing is explained, and little is resolved there. 

What's more, there's a certain point in every Shea Ernshaw novel for me where a twist or a revelation happens and I just totally miss the turn. The novel rides off into its sunset and I sit there wondering WHY it took that direction. A History of Wild Places does this at the end--it sets up its grand theme and then drop kicks it. The ending is a little messy--characters make decisions that make little sense given what they went through, without knowing what has resolved. The final note is pretty, but I felt weirdly cold at the end, wondering if Calla and Theo had achieved any real growth at all.
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“There is no history in a place until we make it, until you live a life worth remembering.”

Some books are delightfully confusing. You have no idea what is going on but it is satisfying - wholly satisfying - to have no idea what is going on.

That is A History of Wild Places.

Just look at those beautiful, dark woods on the cover? It’s easy to wonder about what lies beyond there. Is it peaceful? Is it safe? Is a place you could get lost in forever?

Travis Wren, a man whose life has seen great tragedy, has a gift, and that gift helps him find missing people. When he is hired to locate Maggie St. James, a children’s book author who disappeared five years earlier, he finds himself on the outskirts of a reclusive community called Pastoral. Then Travis Wren disappears too. 

We spend most of the story beyond the borders of Pastoral, inside the tight knit community of people who never leave because there is an illness in the trees that could kill them. We meet Theo and his wife, Calla, who are trying to make sense of evidence they’ve discovered that suggests outsiders were once lingering within the boundary of Pastoral. 

The mysteries of The History of Wild Places were deeply engrossing. The gorgeous prose also proved mesmerizing. I loved getting to know Travis in the beginning, as well as being confined in Pastoral as I moved toward the gasp-inducing reveals. 

This book was close to perfection for me, but I did wish for more development surrounding Travis’s gift. Opening with that left me with a hunger that was never satiated. Additionally, while the pace throughout was steady, the ending felt a bit rushed. I had more questions about who Maggie was, as a person, and I thought a few components deserved more in depth answers than what was provided. 

This is an amazing story, nonetheless, reminiscent of a particular movie I cannot name because to do so would serve as a spoiler for the movie. I’ll only say that it happens to be one of my favorites, so I loved that whole vibe in The History of Wild Places. I’m very eager to read more by Ernshaw, as her ability to craft words into something I could feel is phenomenal, and I adore any writer who accomplishes that. 


I am immensely grateful to Atria Books and NetGalley for my digital review copy. All opinions are my own.

A History of Wild Places will be out in December 2021!
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I always tend to love books with cult vibes. A History of Wild Places gave me The Village feels in the best way possible. 

The book is very well written and has a great twist. 

I will be reading the other books by this author. I really enjoyed this captivating story.

Big thanks to Netgalley for the gifted arc. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This book was so much better than I thought it would be when reading the synopsis. This is what the movie The Village could have been! If you enjoy tales of secluded villages and dark fairy tales this is absolutely for you! Maybe it’s because I live in the mountains of WV but the story of Pastoral had a village that felt vaguely familiar. Not all is as it seems though and even though a lot of it is guessable by the clues left by the author it is by no means boring. The world building and characters were excellent and if you feel the rush of the world is too much sometimes this book will help you find a quieter time but with horrors of its own.
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This book in 3 words: Haunting. Alluring. Clever. 

One of my most exceptional reads of the year. Run, don't walk, and get this on your TBR - pre-order it and request it from your local library. This story is absolutely phenomenal. Travis Wren is hired to find a missing author, Maggie St. James, with his knack of seeing afterimages of people/events by touching objects. We stumble into Pastoral, a community looking to keep themselves off the grid. 

I was most interested by the true-crime/cult vibes this book gave off. I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED! The plot is precise and cleverly crafted. I loved how pieces of Maggie's fairy tale wove itself into this unique story. The voice of each of the characters and perspectives is complete and continues to pull you in, beginning to end. 

The twists and details in A History of Wild Places are brilliant. I found myself marveling at the plot and specific pieces of the story... thinking how another person assembles something like this. 

This is the first book I've read by Shea Ernshaw and I loved her ability to immerse the reader with vivid details and spectacular imagery. I can't wait to pick up her YA books. This book is released on December 7... PRE-ORDER, ADD TO YOUR TBR, REQUEST FROM YOUR LIBRARY!

I was gifted an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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What a journey this book was.

This story starts with a man who is hired to find an author who's been missing for five years. This man, Travis, has the ability to see people's memories when he's holding items that they owned. I immediately got sucked into the story when I started reading it and I liked Travis' voice so much that I was disappointed when he goes missing and the story shifts.

A few years later, we are introduced to three characters living in a commune in the forest, Pastoral. Calla, her husband Theo, and her sister Bee, get to narrate the rest of the story. This commune has all the pieces of a scary cult you'd expect and it doesn't take long for things to unravel. 

There are some interesting twists and turns and I guessed some and totally didn't have an idea about the others. I was captivated the whole time and really enjoyed the time I spent with this story. 

While there's a lot here and several themes are explored, I really ended up sitting with the theme of belonging and what it means to be home the most. I will think about this novel for some time.

with gratitude to Atria books and netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review
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Thank you to NetGalley, Atria Books, and Shea Ernshaw for this EARC in exchange for my honest review.  
This was a fantastic FIVE star read!  Full review will be released closer to Pub date.
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The premise of this book sounded super interesting to me. I love books with cults at their center, throw in a mystery/disappearance and I’m sold. Ultimately though, this one was more character driven than plot driven which usually does not suck me in. The writing felt very repetitive and a bit predictable. Overall I think it would’ve been a better book if the author had focused on a compelling plot to drive the story along instead of counting on the characters to keep the reader interested.
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Mrs. Ernshaw did it again !!!

I loved the atmosphere in this book , cult like vibes, with a little of the Village vibes .  I always feel like I can guess where her books are going and I’m always completely wrong . But I’m totally ok with that ! 

If you think you know , you don’t . You’ll be guessing until the end .

Can’t wait to see what she comes up with next !
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Wow! I absolutely LOVED this book! 
I became very attached to the characters, did not see the ending coming, and the whole plot was a total thrill ride. When you mix missing persons with a cult and you think of the movie "The Village", you have this jam packed amazing tale. 
Highly recommend! Thankful for this ARC!
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Beautifully written and compelling.  In the first part of the book  a man who can find people gets lost a woman who writes disturbing fairy tales  disappears.  He tracks her to  a commune full of secrets and the the story continues there.  What is going on at this community, what is true,  what is leadership and what is love and identity, all explored in this book of depth and heart
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I have mixed feelings about atmospheric literary mystery A History of Wild Places, because there were so many things I really liked about the book, but there was just a lack of an 'it factor' for me. I think ultimately, what it comes down to is that CULT/COMMUNE BOOKS ARE DIFFICULT TO WRITE. I'm so interested in the subject, but every time I read (or even watch a movie) about off-the-grid communities, I'm left bored and wanting more action. Maybe what we imagine happening is far more interesting and depraved than what actually happens in these communities.
Things I liked:
-- The story is written beautifully.
-- The set up, with an author of children's fairy tales going missing.
-- The twist, 70% through the book. Usually in mysteries, when you aren't able to guess the culprit or twist, you've at least had a few suspicions of how it all would end. Here, I had *ZERO* idea what was coming.
The last third of the book is truly exceptional. I just wish the plodding first 2/3 had been as good. Definitely will be keeping an eye out for Ernshaw's next release, as I think the author is talented and shows a lot of promise.
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This was one of the most intriguing books I have read in a long time. Travis Wren is hired to find missing author Maggie St James. He can see the history of a person just by touching an object of theirs, and it has helped him find countless people in the past. Maggie disappeared five years ago, simply vanished. Travis finds her trail himself and then also disappears. Fast forward two more years and we are in Pastoral, a small community of people that live in the woods alone and stay there for fear of what lurks in the woods if they try to leave. The story is now told by Theo, Calla, and Bee who live in the community. But what happened to Travis and Maggie? We find out that things are not what they seem in the idyllic community of Pastoral, and the people are not who they seem either. 
I was drawn into this book from the beginning, I had to keep reading to find out what happened to Travis and Maggie. I did figure things out before the plot twist, but I was not disappointed. Highly recommend this book. Thank you to the publisher via NetGalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
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A History of Wild Places is a cleverly crafted, suspenseful and very creepy read.  A great book to read in long stretches. Ernshaw does a good job of making the switch to adult fiction here with just the right mood.
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