YA Book Review: Out of the Narnia-like Woods

The WoodThe Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Do not travel from the paths. Do not linger after dark. Do not ignore the calling.

Despite its lackluster title, The Wood is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. I really didn’t expect that it would be a mystery set in a simultaneously fantastical and contemporary setting where time travel was possible. Winter Parish, the heroine, is a guardian of the Wood, a whimsical place that contains thresholds or gates to different time periods. Ordinary people often wander into the Wood, so Winter and the other guardians are tasked to prevent these travelers from messing up the space-time continuum. The plot might sound complex at first, but I assure you that everything will click if you have a little patience.

I myself was mildly confused, but comprehension immediately came when I remembered C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, which features a forest called the Wood between the Worlds. Instead of thresholds, this place has ponds that function as portals to different dimensions. If I hadn’t read The Chronicles of Narnia, I probably wouldn’t have understood the mechanics of time travel in The Wood so easily. I’m not sure if the similarity was intended by the author. Still, I appreciate it because Narnia is one of my all-time favorite series.

Winter was a very likable character. As an only child who was very close to her parents, she was mature beyond her years. After her father mysteriously disappeared, Winter shouldered the hard and lonely job of protecting the Wood. Furthermore, since she was in and out of school, her only constant companion was her beloved mother. It was touching to read about Winter’s love for her family. Her childlike faith was also inspiring. She was brave enough to hope that her father was still alive even though her elders said otherwise. I only disliked Winter whenever she lied to her loved ones in order to protect them and herself. I didn’t condemn or judge her for doing so, but I thought that she could’ve done better. After all, the end doesn’t justify the means.

Henry, aka Brightonshire, made me so nostalgic. He was like a combination of Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy and Outlander‘s Jamie Fraser. (Please note that this comparison is very subjective. Hahaha.) Henry came from 18th century England, so he had this charming and formal way of speaking. It was so fun to read about his reactions to modern technology. In fact, he was surprisingly good at solving Rubik’s Cube. Finally, like the men of his own time, Henry had this quiet confidence and chivalry.

Despite their different timelines, Winter and Henry were united in their devotion to their family. They made a good team because they made up for each other’s weaknesses. For example, Winter was the flame to Henry’s dying candle of hope. On the other hand, Henry was the water to Winter’s fiery emotions. When sparks started to fly between them, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. After everything that happened to them, I believed that they deserved to have a chance at a happily ever after.

The last reason why I decided to give The Wood four stars is that the ending was realistic. Nothing was forced nor contrived. The resolution was written in such a way that I didn’t have to suspend my disbelief. If you want to know exactly what I mean, please read the book ASAP. 😀

Overall, this book filled me with nostalgia, happiness, and longing. I hope that everyone will enjoy it, too. I sincerely congratulate the debut author for a job well done. 🙂