Thursday, November 7, 2019

ARC Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Title: Winterwood
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 320
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//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//

Be careful of the dark, dark wood . . .

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago. 

Winterwood caught my eye with its gorgeous cover and magical synopsis. I had no idea what to expect going into this book, having never read a Shea Ernshaw novel before. I hoped for a story that was a little magical, a little spooky, and a little romantic and that's basically what I got, although I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped.

Nora Walker lives in the woods near a camp for troubled boys. She and her family are some of the few to brave the winters and the only family to go into the woods. Walker women are able to venture into the woods where others don't dare to venture. Oliver is a boy at the camp nearby and he has been missing for weeks, only to be discovered by Nora in the woods on one of her trips inside.

Together, Nora and Oliver form a tenuous relationship while they ride out the harsh weather. Meanwhile, Nora tries to get to the bottom of what has happened amongst the boys in the camp and how that relates to Oliver. There are other characters important to this story, but I didn't feel particularly connected to a single person in Winterwood. None of them were particularly likable.

While this story was by no means bad, I definitely think Winterwood is a case of "it's not you, it's me." Shea Ernshaw's writing was beautiful, but I found myself quickly becoming frustrated at how many words were used to say not much of anything. It's definitely worth pointing out that I usually don't enjoy overly flowery writing and that definitely could have been my problem here. The story was interesting, but it took so long to get to any point that I accidentally zoned out more than once.

The best part of Winterwood was the atmosphere. I loved the spooky woods and the winter setting. The seclusion of Nora and the camp made everything just a little bit more unnerving than it would have been otherwise. Just the thought of being stuck with no way out because of the weather reminds me of why I did not love Alaskan winters when I lived there!

I've also seen some people call this story and its twists predictable and, while I felt like something was going to happen, I wasn't able to put my finger on it. The twist defintiely caught me off guard and that's something I loved despite my other issues. If you're already a fan of Earnshaw or flowery prose is your jam, you'll probably love this book, but for me it was just okay.