All Things Urban Fantasy's Reviews > The White Forest

The White Forest by Adam McOmber
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Oct 18, 12

bookshelves: reviewed-by-julia, earc
Read in September, 2012

Fantastical and haunting, from the start THE WHITE FOREST had me glued to the page. I couldn’t tell if our narrator was out of JANE EYRE or THE TELL-TALE HEART, but Jane’s measured description of her strange world had me captivated. Jane is a contradictory mix of petty emotion and open-hearted loneliness, making her both grateful and jealous of the attention of her friends. Even more intriguing, her otherworldly gift seems simultaneously dangerous and innocuous, linked both to her mother’s death and the meaningless colors and sounds the souls of man-made objects project to her.

Though many elements of THE WHITE FOREST remind me of other books and movies that I’ve enjoyed (THE HISTORIAN and Pan’s Labyrinth to name two), Jane herself is a singular experience. Other characters in THE WHITE FOREST comment on her strange charisma, how she isn’t as plain as they first thought. This never comes across as the romance trope of a plain heroine who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is, or only where only her true love sees her inner beauty. Rather, even on the written page Jane seems both muted and mesmerizing. Her narration is almost deadpan, but the circumstances of her story reveal very strong emotions. I can’t even say that I liked her, and certainly much of her actions aren’t admirable in the typical “heart of gold” sense. She can be cruel, she feels the seduction of wielding power over others, and her attachment to Maddie and Nathan is almost smothering. At the halfway point I couldn’t see any happily ever after for Jane, or even predict where this story’s strange magic would take me, but I didn’t need either of those things to keep me riveted to the page.

The mystery of THE WHITE FOREST unfolds on so many different levels. In the present moment, Jane’s friend Nathan is missing. Below that lurks the secret of Jane’s gift and how it relates to both Nathan’s disappearance and Jane’s future. And then deeper still, simmering in the background is the complex alchemy of these relationships; Jane and Maddie and Nathan meshed together in friendship, jealousy, and attraction. I could never tell if the cynical way Jane views her value to Maddie and Nathan was realistic or not, and that tension as much as any other kept me reading for clues.

THE WHITE FOREST isn’t the usual thrilling, sexy urban fantasy, or anything close to steampunk, but I love it all the more for being something out of the norm for me. Jane manages to be magnetic and fascinating without being charming. She drew me into the mystery of her circumstances without becoming predictable and the pathos of the story is one of foreboding and dread without ever dipping into melodrama or horror. As the story spirals further and further outside human experience, I found myself no less affected. A captivating ghost story, a gothic to savor, I enjoyed slowing down and immersing myself in this strange, dark world.

Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex.
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