It feels like ages since I’ve written book reviews for the blog, but this year I decided to make my blog a place where I can store all of them. I’m still using Goodreads, but I much prefer having my own system of collecting my book reviews digitally and I want that to live on my site. That being said, I’m welcoming book reviews back to my blog with one for Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer.
I’ll be honest, I went into this book with very little knowledge about what it’s about. Yeah, I read the synopsis, but it never gives you a full feeling on what you’re about to read. But as I was reading, I most definitely was hooked.
The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.
When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.
Epic, heartbreaking, and darkly atmospheric, Into the Heartless Wood is the story of impossible love between a monstrous tree siren and a boy who lives at the edge of her wood.
When I first started reading, I thought this would be an interesting fantasy story about two people who become unlikely friends. I didn’t imagine there to be a romantic element, but it was so well executed. The relationship between Owen and Seren felt so natural despite being natural enemies. I loved how they started off as fearful of each other, but they kept their minds opened and fell in love with each other over the course of the story. It was really nice to see their relationship grow as the story did as well.
Of course, there was a little bit of animosity especially with the people surrounding Owen and Seren, but I loved that they went against the wishes of their minders and went after each other anyway. Their love definitely had that innocence factor to it and there wasn’t anything beyond a few stolen kisses throughout the story. I felt like the main focus of this book was these two characters. While there was conflict to be had, it felt almost secondary to knowing these characters and the decisions they make to save each other.
The story itself felt like a fairy tale. I’m surprised it didn’t start off with “Once upon a time,” because the atmosphere really conveys that fairy tale-esque dreaminess. It’s also pretty dark with a lot of gore, blood, and death. I loved that it had this dark element to it despite feeling like a light read. It was poetic especially in Seren’s chapters that are written in what looks like a rhythmic meter. I really loved using a specific writing style to convey Seren’s chapters. As a tree person, it definitely showed you how she’s not wholly human, but as you continue to read you see how that really changes with the style. I liked that touch a lot.
While I really loved this story, there were a couple of things I couldn’t overlook. The first thing was that there’s very little information about the villains. Both the Soul Eater and the witch had a backstory that put them in the positions they are in now, but not a lot of it was fleshed out. I don’t think it was very important for the rest of the story, but I feel like it would have brought a level of depth to it. I wanted it to be one of those “don’t make the same mistakes I did” story, but that didn’t happen.
Also, I’m not a fan of convenient plots and some of those components were obviously convenient. Knowledge on how to defeat someone before even looking into it doesn’t really compel me to keep reading. But again, it didn’t seem that important in the context of the story because the story was so focused on Owen and Seren.
Overall, I loved this story. I loved the characters and the little romance between them. Honestly, this story read like a novella, but when I realized it was over 350 pages long, I was surprised. Perhaps it’s a nod to how compulsive this read was and how it kept me entertained and within the story. But I really wish there was more to it.
I would highly recommend this book to folks who love a love story filled with drama and suspense. It’s a heavy read with the level of gore and death, but at the same time enjoyable while I read it.
Thanks Netgalley and Page Street YA for this gifted e-ARC. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.