Deep within the Wood, a young woman lies dead. Not a mark on her body. No trace of her murderer. Only her chipped glass slippers hint at her identity.
The Woodcutter, keeper of the peace between the Twelve Kingdoms of Man and the Realm of the Faerie, must find the maiden’s killer before others share her fate. Guided by the wind and aided by three charmed axes won from the River God, the Woodcutter begins his hunt, searching for clues in the whispering dominions of the enchanted unknown.
But quickly he finds that one murdered maiden is not the only nefarious mystery afoot: one of Odin’s hellhounds has escaped, a sinister mansion appears where it shouldn’t, a pixie dust drug trade runs rampant, and more young girls go missing. Looming in the shadows is the malevolent, power-hungry queen, and she will stop at nothing to destroy the Twelve Kingdoms and annihilate the Royal Fae…unless the Woodcutter can outmanoeuvre her and save the gentle souls of the Wood.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 3.64 out of 5
The darkness settled like wings, blocking out the sun and casting the forest into false night. A woman no older than sixteen ran through the trees, her white ball gown of gossamer gathered in her hands.
The leaves shivered in the wind and whispered a warning. Quietly! Quietly! they spoke. Though she could not understand their words, her breath caught in her throat, for she heard the clatter of death waiting to fall.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog than you will know how much I love them on account of how much I bang on about them.
There are so many versions; classic, original, re-telling’s, subversion’s. There are stories for children and stories for adults. They can be happy or sad, romantic or comedic and in some cases, exceptionally horrific.
I think all forms are awesome. Seriously, the best thing you can ever do for me is suggest anything fairy tale related. I will take them in whatever form they present themselves and I will love you forever (in whatever form you present yourself)!
So, let’s begin….
Once Upon a Time, I read ‘The Woodcutter.’
I didn’t hate it.
Sadly, I didn’t love it either.
This book was one that I was genuinely looking forward to reading because it seemed to be exactly the type of story I love – a fairy tale re-telling with a twist on a main character and a slightly dark journey to get to the happy ending. Although happy is a bit subjective, especially with re-telling’s.
Maybe it’s because I had high hopes and higher expectations that were evidently too high as I was ultimately disappointed in what ‘The Woodcutter’ offered.
I liked the concept of the main character being the titular woodcutter. This stepped away from the usual virile, drop dead gorgeous princes or the feisty-yet-demure, beautiful princesses that normally serve as the leads. Unfortunately, this concept was only semi-successful.
This woodcutter, although our main character, didn’t offer me any emotional connection. In fact, none of the characters did. In fairy tales the characters are archetypes – wicked witch, huntsman, prince, old king and so on. They enter the tale, serve their purpose and exit. This works well in shorter fairy stories but not for novels where you need fleshed out motivations (other than true love) and nicely crafted internal flaws for the character to overcome (or not).
The problem with this book is that the Woodcutter (and that is his name) and the other characters remain as those archetypes. Like I said, this works well in shorter fairy tales when an evil queen can be an evil queen ‘just because,’ but in a novel, I want to feel connected to her.
If the evil queen is evil, why is she? If it’s power she’s after, why does she want it so badly? Has she suffered from injustices? Is this world a dangerous place for women, even women in supposed positions of privilege, that she needs to grab every piece of power for herself just for survival?
You can tell where I would go with an ‘evil’ queen re-telling!
What could have been a unique twist and a new, interesting perspective all came across as rather bland. The Woodcutter was responding to the events in the story as if it was his day job, which it was, but when a character doesn’t experience any emotion to the events unfolding, then neither does the reader.
Along with characterisation, this book also suffered plot issues. Namely, it was confusing and convoluted. It would have been a considerably smoother story had the writer stuck with two or three main fairy tale plots with an additional two or three subtly weaved in. Those who are true aficionado’s will recognise fairy tales from their glimpses in the trees without needing them dangling from the branches. Those who aren’t will just appreciate good story telling and a solid plot.
This book was the equivalent of the fairy tale kitchen sink. Every fairy story seemed to be in here; Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess and the Pea and so on and so on and so on. This only served to clutter up the story and made the plot incredibly hard to follow.
My greatest bugbear (I haven’t used that word in a while!) was that the writer couldn’t stick to fairy tales based in one country of origin. She didn’t just want the fairy tale kitchen sink but she wanted the universal kitchen sink.
There was already too much happening with the fairy tales from Germanic origin but then Russian origin tales were included (Baba Yaga), and Celtic mythology (the Wild Hunt) and even Norse mythology (Odin) but with no reason as to why they were all woven together.
With the above issues, strangely short chapters (one was six words long) and clunky writing, it wasn’t the best version of this type of book. It wasn’t however, a complete disaster. It had potential. If this were re-done and – I never thought I would say this – had elements of the fairy tales stripped away and trimmed down, this could become a very good book.
In short, I wanted to enjoy it and am disappointed that I didn’t. I really am. I think this would almost be better done as a collection of re-told fairy tale short stories with the Woodcutter as a common theme/ character through them. Or, if kept as a novel, the excessive amount of fairy tales should have been cut out allowing for a significantly more streamlined story.
Whilst I didn’t love The Woodcutter I would be inclined to read future offerings from this author to see if her writing and plotting improves as her writing experience increases.
Two (superior) books that The Woodcutter reminded me of for a variety of reasons are below – I would thoroughly recommend reading these….