Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The White Forest

I'm intrigued by mystical Victorian novels like The Night Circus, so when I ran across The White Forest by Adam McOmber on the bookstore shelf, I couldn't pass it up.

It makes good use of the period setting while following a heroine with an intriguing magical ability. Jane Silverlake can discern the souls of objects. She can sometimes prompt objects to reveal things as well.

As the novel opens, we learn that the ability may have been passed down from her mother, who may have died as a result of the ability. Jane and her father now live together in a crumbling British estate.

Much, besides her mother's death, has transpired before page one. Jane and her friend Madeline Lee have had a lengthy friendship and near rivalry over Nathan Ashe, another neighbor who was so intrigued by Jane's ability he was driven to mystical pursuits.

We learn he joined the army in order to travel to distant shores for research in to Jane's aptitude, and upon returning to London he joined the ranks of a cult leader known as Ariston Day. While involved with Day, he disappeared.

As the novel opens, Jane and Madeline are working to find the missing Nathan, while Jane is a suspect of Vidocq, a great French detective who's on the case.

Slowly, Jane learns more about Day's cult and his minions, called Fetches, and she begins to unravel new secrets about her abilities as well.

Flashes of surreal memory portray Nathan as a stag, subject of a hunt by a mysterious red queen in the mysterious and otherworldly White Forest of the title.

Was Jane responsible for his disappearance, or is there more to the mysterious white forest of her vision?

The reveals are strange and offbeat, building to a surprising and fantastical conclusion.

I liked the novel quite a bit, though I suppose I found the entry point into the story a little abrupt. Overall, it's a complex and intriguing historical fiction with a compelling and innovative heroine.

If you enjoy Victorian gothic narratives, you may enjoy it too.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've read many of the original gothic works, like the castle of ontranto, but not much later stuff. this sounds intriguing.

Sidney said...

It's definitely a little different.

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