Cover Image: The Butcher of the Forest

The Butcher of the Forest

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I just finished reading The Butcher of the Forest by Premee Mohamed. This was a dark and magical novella that grips you from the beginning and doesn’t let go.

The story follows Veris Thorn, the only person to enter the north woods, or Elmever, and return. The north woods are a dangerous place and when people enter them it means a certain death. Veris went in after a child once, and was able to return.

Years later the Tyrant that has taken over Veris’s homeland, enlists Veris to enter the woods again. This time to find his two children. Veris must take on this challenge even though she never wanted to return to the Elmever, or the Tyrant will kill her family.

This was such an interesting read. A perfect blend of fantasy and horror. Veris is a remarkable character who will do anything to save the ones she loves. Even if it means facing her worst fears for a second time. This book reminded me a little of Fairy Tale by Stephen King, mostly the tone and vibe felt similar.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this quick read. In a fairytale-like setting, our main character, Veris Thorn, the only person to have ever gone into the magical woods known as Elmever and was able to return with a child that had gone missing many years ago. The "Tyrant" who rules over these lands forces Veris to return to these woods when it is discovered his two children have gone missing. Veris must use the knowledge and cunning she has to navigate the woods and find the children in one day, for after that time, you are never able to leave the woods.
The world building was phenomenal and I found it easy to get completely immersed in the story. If you enjoy fairytales and folklorist type characters you will definitely enjoy this book.
For fans of Naiomi Novik and Katherine Arden.
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this lovey dark story.

Was this review helpful?

Veris has been asked to find the tryant's children who have disappeared into the dark and dangerous magical woods. Having been to the woods previously. She knows that there is no guarantee of safe return. But she must find the children and bring them back home to protect her own family from the tyrant's wrath.

This novella is a dark fairy tale, and lacks a real moral. The characterization of Veris was the most interesting among all the characters. She motives and struggle to do what she is being forced to do by a tyrant and her relationship with the children who are innocent, at least for now. Her own challenges with loss compound these feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, and fear. The wood is haunting and visceral. While it doesn't belong in this story, I would've loved some lightness. Overall, this is a wonderfully told dark and magical fairytale.

Thank you so much to Tordotcom and the author for partnering with B2Weird and the advanced copy.

Was this review helpful?

I had to keep checking to see how far along in this book I was, because it honestly felt endless. Which is kind of insane for being such a short book.

The synopsis was SO promising, but it just felt flat for me. I don’t think I connected with the writing at all.

Was this review helpful?

Old fairytales are dark. We all know this. Old fairytales tell of consequences. Old fairytales remind us that the woods are not a safe place, but that men and nature alike can be monstrous. Friends, The Butcher of the Forest is, in all the best ways, like those old fairytales.

This is the story of a woman named Veris, the only person to have ever successfully rescued a child from the Elmever, a darkly enchanted forest. When the Tyrant's two children wander into the Elmever, he commands Veris to rescue them both; the price of failure will be her life and her village's lives as well. So into the woods she goes.

With rich prose and unsettlingly vivid imagery, Mohamed weaves a chilling and captivating tale in this novella. (Fun fact: there are no chapters in it, and I didn’t even mind.) On one level, this is a story about a haunted forest, with decaying animal Guardians, tricksy fae, and an evil unicorn. But on a deeper level, this is a story of lost innocence, and of grief, not just for individual lives (though those do abound), but for all the things which are lost at the hands of a conquering empire. As awful as Veris's time in the forest is, her narration is littered with memories of other horrors she and her village and others were subjected to when the Tyrant came to their lands. Those horrors plague her every time she looks at the children, knowing they might grow up to be the same as their father--but that, for now, they are just children, still innocent. Her emotional turmoil is a slow smothering of shadows to which the reader is subjected, a tale that may raise your hair a bit as you read (those Guardians are creepy as heck), but will ultimately leave you wondering why your heart feels so heavy. As it should.

Rep: possibly aro-coded MC
TW/CW: body horror, blood, animal corpses, kidnapping, war, child prostitution (mention), death of parent, death of child

Was this review helpful?

You can judge this book by its gorgeous cover. It is an elegant atmospheric fairy tale. The story is familiar but unique - a dark enchanted forest, two lost children and a richly built world with strict rules.

The prose follows the cadence of a classic Grimm but adds richness and adventure. The world and its monsters are grotesque and composed of the fantastic and human.

I love the main character, Veris. First, she is not a child but a full adult with a robust backstory, fears, and motivations. She is brave and heroic but also vulnerable and realistic. She is sent to retrieve a Tyrant's children. The Tyrant is a bit of an abstract conquerer which is fine for a novella. The children are quintessential fairy tale children - perhaps real children - heading into a dangerous wood because they were told not to. However, they are allotted more personality than most fair tale children are allowed. The monsters are familiar but with a twist. It's a bit as if a fairy tale fell through the looking glass.

It struck the right chords and I will definitely keep this author on my radar.

Was this review helpful?

I was so intrigued by this from the synopsis but it fell short for me. The Tyrant and his legacy of death and fear were the best part. The description of some of the forest while horrible and freaky didn't add much for me. The story was left with the potential for a second part but I'm not sure if there was one that I'd read it. The lack of chapters was also very off-putting.

Was this review helpful?

For only being less than 100 pages long, this book felt like it was never going to end; though it's clearly supposed to be an adventure story, it was SO tedious. The language was overly flowery, and the story itself didn't really tread any new ground. It sounded so promising when I read the blurb, but in execution, it just...didn't do it for me. I wish I had more to say about it that might actually be helpful, but when it comes down to it, I felt like the author, and the book itself, both had loftier thoughts and opinions about what was being produced here. T. Kingfisher does infinitely better work at these short, twisted-fairytale novellas.

Was this review helpful?

The Butcher of the Forest is a haunting dark fairy tale that will stay with you, very reminiscent of many childhood stories but with added depth and layers of metaphor wrapped into the story. Very cleverly highlighting grief and asking the questions about who is innocent and complicit when it comes to oppression.

"𝑨𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒈𝒂𝒊𝒏 𝒔𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉𝒕: 𝑴𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒔, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒉𝒊𝒍𝒅𝒓𝒆𝒏 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒔. 𝑩𝒖𝒕 𝒊𝒏𝒏𝒐𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕. 𝒀𝒐𝒖 𝒅𝒐 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒊𝒏𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒃𝒐𝒓𝒏 𝒕𝒐; 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒅𝒐 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒊𝒏𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒕 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒐𝒘𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒇𝒕. 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒊𝒏𝒏𝒐𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒔𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒎 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒎. 𝑨𝒏𝒅 𝒊𝒕 𝒉𝒂𝒔 𝒏𝒐𝒕. 𝑺𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒊𝒕 𝒎𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒃𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒎𝒃𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒅.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, such a great introduction to the author, Premee Mohamed who's past work I will be looking forward to catching up on.

Was this review helpful?

Originally published at -

‘The Butcher of the Forest’ is quite a stunning, and equally dazzling entry into the world of novellas. Dark, richly atmospheric, and magical in more ways than one. Pretty much every aspect of the novella is executed to near perfection – be it the story, the main character, or the writing. I was invested right from the start, and the incredible prose kept me hooked and engrossed until the very end. I would certainly not hesitate one bit when deciding whether to grab it or not. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Was this review helpful?

simple and very effective. i like premee mohamed's writing style too, elegant and expressive with skill and precision. will seek out more

Was this review helpful?

This was an absolutely stunning novella. The Butcher of the Forest tells the story of Veris, a villager under the rule of a cruel tyrant who lives near a wild forest called Elmever. While Elmever looks like a normal forest, it is really two forests - a magical one and a real one - layered upon one another. Anyone who enters Elmever crosses into the magical forest without realizing and never returns to the world outside of the forest. When the two young children of the tyrant go into the forest, Veris, the only person ever to escape Elmever, is commanded by the tyrant to rescue them, or suffer the deaths of everyone she knows.

Veris enters Elmever and must contend not only with the monsters of the forest, but also the monsters of her own world. Are the children of a monster innocents?

The writing in this is just unbelievably good. I loved the tension between knowing the innocence of the children and the evil of their father. This was the best version of ~haunted magic forest~ I think I've ever read.

Thanks so much to Premee Mohamed and Tor Publishing Group for this ARC through NetGalley. The Butcher of the Forest is available now. Highly recommended!

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this one and continue to be impressed by Premee Mohamed's writing. This had a strong fairy tale vibe throughout, but was incredibly dark and horrifying in places, which I really appreciated. I thought Veris made a great protagonist and the notion of a forest within a forest was fascinating. The forest was filled with dangerous creatures and there was a real sense of dread throughout, which was most welcome. Also, the ending was unexpected. Overall, this was a great read and I would love to see more stories set in this world.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Was this review helpful?

"The Butcher of the Forest" by Premee Mohamed offers a promising premise with its tale of a forbidden forest filled with magic, traps, and ancient monsters. However, despite these intriguing elements, the story failed to fully engage me. One of the main issues lies in the pacing, which felt sluggish at times. Despite these shortcomings, Mohamed's writing style is competent, with moments of vivid description and imaginative world-building. With tighter pacing and more fully realized characters, "The Butcher of the Forest" could have been a much more engaging read. Overall, while the premise of "The Butcher of the Forest" holds promise,but the execution fell short for me.

Was this review helpful?

This is a dark fairy tale with Pan’s Labyrinth-like creatures that are big and small. Not is all what it seems in the north woods called Elmever. Versus is asked to do the unthinkable: go back into Elmever to bring two lost children home before the forest claimed them for good. Nightmares are made in places like the north woods; especially for Veris.

I love the esthetics of this novella. The Grimm-esk tale was fast paced and thrilling. A perfect spooky read.

Was this review helpful?

Imagine Over The Garden Wall, but horror. It's somehow both creepy and whimsical, like a Grimm's fairy tale. Unique story, evocative writing, and a great novella length.

Was this review helpful?

i don't know if it's fair to rate this one because

1. i dnf'd it at 35%

2. i wouldn't say it's bad. but i don't think i'm the audience for it. it's less than 200 pages and i was reading it for a month, and dreaded coming back to it. maybe fantasy is just not my thing.

Was this review helpful?

A big thanks to Netgalley and Tor for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Creepy? Fairy Tales? The only thing that wasn't in this book favors was it's length.

The Butcher of the Forest by Premee Mohamed is a fantasy novel set in a world that perfectly mixes fantasy with horror. At the northern edge of a land ruled by a merciless foreign tyrant lies a wild, forbidden forest ruled by powerful magic. Veris Thorn—the only one to ever enter the forest and survive—is forced to go back inside to retrieve the tyrant's missing children. Inside await traps and trickery, ancient monsters, and hauntings of the past. One day is all Veris is afforded. One misstep will cost everything.

This book was sweepingly beautiful, with it's gorgeous prose and spooky atmosphere. I just kinda of wish it was a tad bit longer. Still I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a book off the beaten path of fairy tales.

Was this review helpful?

"The Butcher of the Forest" is the book when you're looking for a complete but quick spooky faerie story. Author Premee Mohamed pulls your through the story with lyrical writing. It's as if a fae siren is singing you through a dark forest. Highly recommend!

Thank you NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for this digital ARC copy.

Was this review helpful?

The Butcher of the Forest by Premee Mohamed is like nothing I've read before.

The writing is so beautiful. Mohamed's prose is so fluid and well-written that it pushes the story forward constantly, ensuring that there is not a single dull moment. It does lean towards the flowery, which I think helped atmospherically build the forest setting. Every single page is filled with elements of cryptid fairytales and this uncanny kind of horror that puts your senses on constant alert. This novella is the complete opposite of cozy fantasy, and I loved every unsettling moment of it.

This is the perfect read for fall or winter. The atmosphere of the forest and all of the disturbing creatures lean towards the spooky. It has everything you need for a seasonal read: an enchanted forest where kids go in and never come out, magic, high stakes, a 24-hour deadline, and creepy (gross) mythical creatures. Despite this being such a short story, the world felt fully imagined and fleshed out. I could envision every section, place, and creature in this forest. The protagonist, Veris, is incredible. She is 40-something, damaged, and jaded, but holistically good despite her reluctance in her mission. I think the author excelled in giving us a character who you truly want to win.

I wish I could say more about the plot, but trust me, you'll want to experience it for yourself. All I can say is that this book left me hungry for more from Mohamed. If there is ever another book in this world, I will be first in line.

Was this review helpful?