The following review contains untagged spoilers regarding the entire book. I wish I could be more specific than that. Spoiler tagged version is available on Goodreads.
I was gifted the OwlCrate exclusive hardback edition of this book from a friend and it’s one of the prettiest books I’ve ever owned. The reversible dust jacket is beautiful. (And I think the black cover suits the vibe of the book a lot more than the white.)
This book was wonderful in a very quiet, classic way, yet the worldbuilding was still breath-taking and vivid and whimsical. It opens in a simple and quaint part of the kingdom with Cerys, the gardener’s teenage daughter who has magic literally in her blood that marks her survival from the curse in the woods. She’s best friends with the royal heir and a mischievous and melodramatic fox who quickly became my favourite character. The fox hit all of the character tropes I love and then more, and I think that’s all I can say without giving away too much.
A majority of this book takes place on a journey through the forest. Forest settings are the love of my life, especially as someone who basically grew up in the trees. The descriptions really emphasise the creepiness and I love the attention to detail on those affected by the curse, as well as all the other monsters hidden in the shadows. Some of this plot at this point predictable, but it follows the traditional fairytale way of storytelling. It definitely made up for lacked elements in other areas, especially in the slow-burn romance. The bickering and banter brought the characters and their chemistry to life and I was entertained, even if I knew how it was going to end.
This retelling might’ve been a bit too quiet and quaint in some moments, especially in comparison to the type of retellings that I usually lean towards. The first chapter shows Cerys’ mother getting stabbed through the chest by the horns/antlers of one of the forest monsters, then becoming cursed, and there are definitely a few close encounters and wonderful descriptions of other monsters, but they somehow don’t really hold a large role in the story. They’re hyped up to be these intimidating old Gods throughout the book and appear for the final battle scene, but just stand on the sidelines as a decorative threat. I think I just wished they were more involved and that would’ve really made the book for me. But this also didn’t break the story: the incorporated eerie elements were wonderfully written and added the perfect amount of depth and intrigue to the simplicity.
Finally, my favourite part of this book is that it’s a standalone. I love a good series, but sometimes one perfectly wrapped up book is enough and great on its own. This way, it’s warm and familiar and the type of story that I could turn to for comfort. However, I do love that there are scenes after the ending that suggest that there could be more to come from this universe, possibly about different characters in the world, and it’ll be something I’ll have an interest in reading if it does happen.
I think this review comes off as a bit negative as I feel like I would have to tag the entire thing as a spoiler if I gave more attention to the good parts, so this is my formal statement that I did genuinely love and enjoy so much of this book, more than I can say.
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)