The Dark Between The Trees
by Fiona Barnett
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Pub Date 11 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 04 Oct 2022
1643: A small group of Parliamentarian soldiers are ambushed in an isolated part of Northern England. Their only hope for survival is to flee into the nearby Moresby Wood... unwise though that may seem. For Moresby Wood is known to be an unnatural place, the realm of witchcraft and shadows, where the devil is said to go walking by moonlight...
Seventeen men enter the wood. Only two are ever seen again, and the stories they tell of what happened make no sense. Stories of shifting landscapes, of trees that appear and disappear at will... and of something else. Something dark. Something hungry.
Today, five women are headed into Moresby Wood to discover, once and for all, what happened to that unfortunate group of soldiers. Led by Dr Alice Christopher, an historian who has devoted her entire academic career to uncovering the secrets of Moresby Wood. Armed with metal detectors, GPS units, mobile phones and the most recent map of the area (which is nearly 50 years old), Dr Christopher's group enters the wood ready for anything.
Or so they think.
“Blimey, this was creepy as hell!” – Claire North, author of Ithaca
“Haunting and heart-stopping. The Dark Between the Trees marks the arrival of a bold new voice in British horror.” – M R Carey, author of The Girl With All the Gifts
“Superbly tense.” – Adam Roberts, author of The This
“Fantastically written and darkly mesmerizing.” – Marianne Gordon
“An assured, masterful slice of folk-horror strangeness.” – Simon Bestwick, author of Black Mountain
Solaris Lead Title for Fall 2022
Solaris Lead Title for Fall 2022
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 91 members
This is what I love about horror: a creepy setting, rising sense of dread, and simple but driven characters. I was a big fan of the Ritual (the movie) for its simple plot, forest, and villain so while this story doesn't quite reach its level, this is still a great read.
What I liked:
- The setting. I love a mysterious wood with an unseen creature and questions about how it came to be. The addition of two different times (present and hundreds of years ago) was a nice touch, in my opinion, and made things interesting
- The characters didn't grab me but for a horror story, they were solid. They had different motives and distinct personalities and while I didn't care if they lived or died, I could empathize with their situation and motives
- The monster isn't constantly in your face, which I love. It has limited "screen time" and most of what it does happens outside the characters' view
What I didn't like:
- The ending fell flat for me. It felt like a few mysteries were still left unanswered (which I think was the point) but left it not just feeling unsatisfying but incomplete
- I would have preferred we stick to maybe 3-4 POVs instead of the numerous members of the group. Alice had an interesting POV (because she was frustratingly stubborn) but the men and other women all blended together
- The story could get very slow at times and while there's nothing wrong with this slow burn, I found myself hoping something exciting would actually happen when it never did. However, this wasn't a major issue in the book
Overall, a great read for horror fans who love: stories set in the forest, a sense of mystery and exploration, fans of the Ritual or the Descent, and a clean horror that doesn't rely on discomfort or immorality to creep you out. I would recommend this to other horror fans.
[This book was kindly provided as a free e-arc and I greatly appreciate it.]
Goodreads link (because it never seems to work on NetGalley): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4667023497
The Dark Between The Trees weaves two stories together over centuries…two very creepy stories. The subtitle “Getting Lost is Safer than Being Found” is a clue although neither is a good choice.
Dr. Alice Christopher has spent her career studying Moresby Wood and the disappearance there of a group of soldiers in the 1600s. Local legends abound involving a vanished family, a witch, and an entity that may or not assume the shape of an animal. Now Dr. Christopher, relying on old maps and the words of the sole survivor of the expedition, takes four women with cutting edge tech gear into the woods to find the soldiers’ bones and discover why they never left. This will not go well.
Captain Davies was ambushed, lost men in a firefight, and escaped into Moresby Wood in 1643. His experiences are described in alternating chapters with those of the Christopher party. Those experiences begin to be startlingly similar to what Alice and her team see now.
Full of horror and dread, The Dark Between The Trees is a terrifying trip into a dark, imaginary world. In both old and modern times, rational thinking slowly devolves into hallucination. Whether this is caused by ghosts, a witch or Moresby Woods itself, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t read this thriller alone at night and…if you happen to be in a forest, don’t look behind you. 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Solaris and Fiona Barnett for this ARC,
This book kept me so engrossed. The chapter changes and amalgamation at the end was perfect.
I loved some of the metaphors within the book which really matched with how people feel in real life. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I was looking forward with trepidation the whole way through!
I can not recommend this book enough! Was absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year. Completely hair raising and tense. I plan to purchase for all my horror reading friends and family. Can’t wait for more by author. Will definitely be added to my favorite author list.
Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this book
The book was set in a creepy wood which is one of my favourite settings. There’s just something about a wood that draws my interest, both in real life and I’m books
This novel had dual narrative which is one of my favourite narrative modes. The chapters alternate between an army in the 17th century who, battle weary, found themselves lost in the wood and a modern day academic who is looking into the disappearance of the army. I felt that this narration style provided some foreshadowing and explanation and I thought it was done so well! There were some parallels between the members of the different parties.
Throughout the book there was such a creepy atmosphere of foreboding. I enjoyed the creepy ghost stories that were quoted by each of the parties.
I found this book to be creepy and chilling and I just loved it. I could not see the ending coming and it was such an enjoyable read. I highly recommend this book, it picked me out of a slump that I’d found myself in
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
First of all, my gracefulness and major thanks to NetGalley and Rebellious Books for allowing me the pleasure to read an ARC of this book. This review has no spoilers, and is quite detailed, so I would appreciate your patience.
I have grown up reading Satyajit Ray’s various horror stories, and reading Chander Pahar (Mountain of the Moon) by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay every few months. I have loved, since I was able to read, the thrill and rush of reading horror and adventure. This book reminded me of these works, after quite a long time. This was especially because both Chander Pahar and this novel take place in the forest, with the same sense of disorientation, doubt, an unknown but legendary animal chasing and killing comrades, and finally, the cave. It didn’t feel borrowed, but like two stones is the same alley. This book had managed to scare me off from late night reading, that’s how good it is. And it is honestly an honour to read it in May, because I know when it comes out during the Halloween season, it will fit right in.
Barnett has a gift of building her story and its world. The novel alternates between the group led by Davies, and the group led by Dr. Alice Christopher. The narrative jumps right in, no lengthy exposition, but a constant flow of context while the events don’t cease. Right from the onset, the thrill and horror is built up. It is one thing to include visible ghosts in a story, or a legend that exists only in one version and is quite solid. Nothing such is happening in the Moresby woods; the entity that haunts it is invisible, the forest is conscious and hearing, and the environ not quite familiar in terms of known geography. Common sense and logic are wasted, and not even modern tech stands. It is an unfamiliar world that we are too scared to think of, made quite alive. It is Bermuda Triangle but without casual accounts or conspiracies. It unsettles not just the characters, but also the readers.
The pace of the book was impressive, although around the middle it seemed to slow down. But that was easily overcome, and the story advanced fast. A special mention goes to the end, extremely mature and fulfilling. The slight open-ended way of ending it was also a welcome move, making the story not give up its uncertain nature. The characters were great to follow around and study. It is truly pathetic how the fate of the dead ones turned out, or even of those trapped in the woods. The concept of time was something being hinted at quite early in my opinion, as I could tell the intersection from the moment both parties passed the charcoal pit. But even then it happened it an unexpected way, and was quite exciting to read.
The only areas I felt could be better were, first, the way the Moresbys spoke: English until the 15th century was quite different of how it is now, or even when Shakespeare wrote. And it was certainly nothing like the written language we read frequently. However, for the sake of modern readers, it is an understandable adjustment, although it could have been incorporated better. Even an inclusion of medieval French could fit, since French was at that time one of the most popular languages in Europe. Second, some of the sentences, conjoined by commas, felt a tad bit long.
The way the characters are well developed, and so many of them, that it doesn’t feel like a debut novel. The mix of folk and history, the woes of academia, the risks and thrills of an adventure into the unknown: they all feel amazing. I also like how several questions remained unanswered, although it might be something frowned upon. This is because those have been left unanswered quite strategically, in a way where they don’t feel like plot holes, or become one. It was also an unputdownable read, unless like me you read it alone in darkness in the middle of the night while the weather outside is exactly like Moresby woods.
If you’re looking for the perfect Halloween read that isn’t just mythical beings or plain ghosts, this is it. You’ve found the perfect read.
This is one of the scariest books I have ever, ever, ever read. The premise doesn't seem that spooky - a group of women researchers treks to a British forest to do archaeological work - but you quickly realize that there is WAY more to this forest than meets the eye. Traveling back and forth between the 15th century and present day, this book disrupts the time/space continuum and plays with our perception of reality.
'The Dark Between the Trees' reminds me of Shirley Jackson's writing. Not only because of its characterful prose, but also because of its slower, dread-oriented pacing, gradually building up an unsettling atmosphere rather than going all in with more shocking moments - although, admittedly, it provides those two.
Alongside this book I've been delving into a collection of haunted forest short stories, and I'm struck by how well Fiona Barnett has explored this trope. TDBTT very much feels like a full length version of one of those stories, but by bringing its own unique elements - most notably, light surrealism and a dimensional angle - it is an excellent example of this type of story. The author demonstrates a brilliant understanding of these concepts and the subgenre in which she's writing. On offer here is both a literal and a figurative haunting, like all of the best haunting stories are - and it is a compelling example of both, most notably thanks to the monster in this story. Whatever the Corrigal ends up representing, this is a fantastic monster for the book, being unexpected, being unsettling at times, but most importantly, serving the greater tone and theme excellently well.
There are a lot of characters in this story, and at first I found this too much, that it made the story overwhelming and difficult to get to grips with. But something pushed me through these early struggles, and I'm glad they did, since with every new chapter, and every new detail, I became more and more invested in all of these characters. Their conflicts, both internal and relational, are so well written.
Admittedly, I'm undecided on the ending. I sort of expected something bigger, something that would act as more of a gut punch. But maybe the understated element of the chosen ending is brilliant, maybe this is in fact the better ending.
Either way, I loved this book, and I think it deserves a cult following when it eventually releases later in the year. I hope it gets that cult following - I'll certainly be recommending it to people, especially those who will appreciate its slow burn, atmospheric sense of progression, and great cast of characters.
[Advanced Reader Copy provided by the author]
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my arc in exchange for my honest review.
Such a unique and different read from what I go towards but definitely an amazing read at that. It reminded me of the Blair witch vibes as has too by my friends who have read an arc which is amazing as I love that movie so I more than ever flew through the book, I loved it.
The storyline was very well written that I was engaged from start to finish. The characters were a good read overall I did first find it hard remembering the characters as there was a few than what I’m used to reading.
I really was impressed with the history aspects throughout the book as it showed and piqued my interest that the author has good knowledge on the facts, another huge plus as I am a huge history fan
Overall the book was excellent but I was deflated from the ending but it really left me wanting more. I look forward to what the author next brings out.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the arc in exchange of my honest review
Whoa! What a ride. It was very fast-paced. The writing style kept me hooked and I didn't find myself losing any interest. I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters and how real the story felt. The author did a great job painting the setting, so it was easy for me to visualize the scene played out before me. I recommend giving this one a chance!
This book is dark, atmospheric, intense and filled to the brim with folklore themes intertwined with surreal episodes. Tension starts to build up from the beginning, slowly incorporating legends and folk tales and then horror elements slowly creep in. The book draws you in and doesn't let the grip on you until the end. Without spoilers difficult to explain more, go and read more for yourselves. Get into those woods!
First of all, many thanks to Rebellion, Solaris and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this ARC of Fiona Barnett's 'The Dark Between the Trees.'
As a devotee of folk horror, especially English folk horror, I really enjoyed this book.
It's a multiple timeline tale of people trapped in a single piece of sinister forest somewhere unspecified in the north of England. There's a medieval storyline (told through the modern storyline), an English Civil War narrative, and a 21st century story, as well as an overarching sense of the ancient - long predating all of those historical periods.
All three elements contain themes of conflict and otherness. The Moresbys, who gave their name to the wood, seek to set themselves apart from the rest of their community and move off to the forest, the Civil War soldiers are, obviously, involved in a war of division and the 'others' here could be seen as either the Papists/Catholics or the ones who either believe or don't believe the superstitions. The 21st century theme is one of academic infighting and division and it's so well done you'd have to wonder if the author has come through similar experiences!
There are constant time shifts and eventual melding that may confuse readers but I was able to fall into the rhythm and I think this also parallels one of the features of the forest which, itself and for the various captured parties, is constantly shifting between different periods of its existence.
Some readers might take issue with the ambiguity of the ending but I don't know how else you'd have finished this novel. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that I don't think there was ever going to be a happy ending to this one. It could potentially have set it up for a sequel, which I would happily read.
Throughout the novel I couldn't help but see hints of Dan Simmons' 'The Terror' as the protagonists are tracked by an unseen, ancient, and brutal horror. There were also even hints of the film 'Predator' as the creature shimmies in and out of view. Finally, if you like the novels of English writer James Brogden - 'Hekla's Children,' 'The Plague Stones,' or 'The Hollow Tree' - which similarly weave historical periods and fantastical elements together then you'll love this.
Fantastic first novel.
Got this one for free as an ARC of Netgalley, thank you so much Solaris for the chance to review it.
I have been so desperately disappointed in all the books I’ve read lately. Even the ones that had a tinge of loveliness to them – I’m thinking about the arresting back two thirds of Laramie Dean’s Black Forest – were saddled with overwriting and rambling filler. So this was a pleasant surprise.
The Dark Between The Trees is a fast-moving folk horror set in a woods in northern England. Dr. Alice Christopher has finally realized her life’s ambition of investigating the 1643 disappearance of a group of roundhead soldiers in the Moresby Wood. Accompanied by a group of rangers and graduate students, she presses into the forest, and the place very quickly throws them off kilter. The roundheads themselves, appearing in alternating chapters, march to their inevitable fate, just as leery and confused as the women following Dr. Christopher. Bullheadedness and fear run up against the terrifying reality of the wood, and the two threads clash into each other in the most remarkable way.
This book reminds me most of Adam Neville’s The Ritual, not least because it’s taken up with the very human squabbles that take place between the desperate. Unlike The Ritual it doesn’t stop midway through to introduce a new, slightly stupider plot thrust. It’s spacious and descriptive while still being narratively tight and frightening. The twist about the nature of the wood was fascinating; a little telegraphed, I will admit, but done well enough that I didn’t mind. The 1643 POV gave me the same sort of terrible hopeless optimism laced with unflinching reality that The Terror did so well, minus all the unnecessary descriptions of steamship anatomy.
I can’t really say enough about this, and I don’t want to say more about it in case I spoil any of it. Five stars. Absolutely wonderful read.
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