Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The White Forest, by Adam McOmber. Touchstone, 2012

This story, set in 1850s England, starts out seeming to be a simple historical novel, perhaps a historical romance. We have two young women and a young man who are best friends, but who, in their early twenties, are feeling attraction for each other. In a rural area just outside London, they are cut off from most people and have spent most of their free time together for years. Soon- very soon- fantastical elements enter the story. The narrator, Jane Silverlake, has an odd power- she hears objects. Everything makes sounds. And when in direct contact with her skin, others can hear these strange sounds. Her friends, Maddy and Nathan, are aware of this.

The novel jumps around in time a lot, frequently going back over the same time span with added information. The story revolves around the disappearance of Nathan and the search for him; no one knows if he is dead or alive. He had become obsessed with a cult that seeks a paradise called the Empyrean- and thinks Jane can help them get there. The leader of the cult will stop at nothing to achieve his paradise; Maddy and Jane will stop at nothing to find Nathan. There is more to Jane’s abilities than hearing the souls of objects and this may be the key to Nathan’s fate. As images of a chthonic goddess start appearing around London, Jane tries to figure out her powers

This is a very dark story. The first layer is the simple one of friends roaming the woods; the further the novel goes, the deeper we dig into their psyches and emotions, as well as into the backstory of Nathan’s interest in the cult. At the deepest layer, we find that nothing is as we thought it was, and the ended totally surprised me. Well crafted and very detailed, this book held my attention all the way.

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