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Into the Heartless Wood

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The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.

When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published January 12, 2021

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About the author

Joanna Ruth Meyer

5 books737 followers
Joanna Ruth Meyer is the author of the critically-acclaimed Echo North, as well as the companion novel duology Beneath the Haunting Sea and Beyond the Shadowed Earth. She writes stories about fierce teens finding their place in the world, fighting to change their fate, save the ones they love, or carve out a path to redemption.

Joanna lives with her dear husband and son, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano named Prince Imrahil in Mesa, Arizona. As often as she can, she escapes the desert heat and heads north to the mountains, where the woods are always waiting.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 671 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews176k followers
February 28, 2023
This was definitely not what I was expecting it to be. I did really love the fact that it fell into dark fairytale territory, but the romance completely smothered this book. I wouldn't have minded the romance element had it just been one of the many layers of the story, but it overtakes the everything and makes it the main focus causing all the interesting bits to be covered up.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,316 reviews44.1k followers
April 23, 2023
Oh boy! I’m crying my eyes out! What a heartfelt, tear jerker, soul crusher, extremely emotional, poetic love story it is!

A soul without heart of true love and a heart without her true soul!

A powerful, dark, forbidden love story between a monster girl and a human boy!

There are so many Beauty and the beast, Phantom of the opera and Shape of water vibes in this story. But it’s not a retelling! It’s unique, intense, moving love story!

Once upon a time there was a girl who crushes the souls and collect them to empower her vicious mother! She was tree siren luring humans to the dark wood to hunt powerful souls to chain them to the heartless tree.

But one day, that monster girl realizes she doesn’t have to stay as a monster. She can stop hunting innocent souls. She can disobey her mother and her ruthless sisters!

She can have a CHOICE! The boy she met show him she can choose to be anyone she wants. She has her inner power and on contrary she must have some soul hidden inside of her because she protected that boy, saving his life and she starts to fall for him.

She tasted strawberries! She danced with the boy, listening to the symphony, watching the beautiful, brightest stars!

Then she tells him the secret which tears them apart. Now the boy hates her! He swears he will kill her if she sees her anywhere closer to him. Her mother also wants to crush her heart, taking her life.

Only thing she can do is running away to her brothers to help her become a real human even though it is temporary solution and once her true creature self comes back there is nothing to leave behind from her but she takes that risk to save the boy she loved because his life is danger. Soul eater took his family and he is not powerful enough to save them!

Their love seems like cursed from the beginning but nothing can stop them to fall deeper for each other even though monsters around them lurk around to take their lives!

I loved this lyrical, poignant story so much! When the publishers declined my request, I honestly banged my head to my computer furiously and saw million dancing cartoon stars!

Millions of thanks to dear Mimi Chan and Goodreads team to share such a fantastic book’s advanced copy with me!

It earned my five billion galaxy stars! I truly recommend it to YA fantasy, romance lovers! That’s one of the most powerful fantasy reads of 2021!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
April 6, 2021
i will admit i was hesitant to pick this up. ive read so many ‘witches of the wood’ kind of stories that i wasnt sure this would be anything new or exciting.

and i was kind of right. this is your classic fairytale/folklore story of a dangerous magical wood and the monsters that lurk inside it. it has your sweet village boy and the siren who longs for a different life. you have your ruling kingdoms, the natural beings, and the war between them.

and while i did like the lovely writing, the dryad aspect and the obvious welsh undertones (these are what gave the story any sense of uniqueness for me), everything else is all pretty standard.

which will be a delight for readers who love the quaint feel of fairytales. but for me, personally, i need something a bit more for me to fall in love with this kind of story.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
382 reviews1,011 followers
November 28, 2020
I received this complimentary ARC from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

So, I’m sure after my screaming over Echo North when it released (and then when I proceeded to bully you all into reading it :P), it comes as no surprise to you that I completely devoured this novel. Joanna Ruth Meyer can truly do no wrong in my eyes! There’s just something about her books that appeals to me so much. What is this magic? How does she do it?

From day one, when Joanna announced a gender-swapped Beauty and the Beast, I knew that this was written FOR ME. I’m certain that you can imagine the THRILL OF VICTORY I felt when I was lucky enough to receive an ARC. THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!


Gwydden’s Wood (most of the names seemed to be Welsh-inspired – cough The Bone Houses anyone? cough) surrounds the kingdom of Tarian. Tree-sirens exist within the wood, using their song to lure innocents into their realm, so that their souls may be harvested to feed the heartless tree and thus, grant the witch who inhabits the wood even more power than she already has. Recently, the tree-sirens have been causing more and more damage by targeting an exorbitant amount of people and causing destruction by the railroad, and no one can understand the reason behind this sudden change. All they know is that the wood is a place to be feared.


Owen Merrick lives with his astronomer father and toddler sister, Awela (what an adorable cutie btw <3), at the edge of the wood. Their father had constructed a wall around their property after they lost his mother to the wood. Not wanting to lose any more family to the tree-sirens, they are cautious to avoid getting too close. One day, he ventures into the wood – in order to protect his little sister, who had inadvertently wandered there – and encounters a tree-siren. This tree-siren is different than the others, though. Rather than wanting to do him harm, all she wants is to be good. She is curious about this human boy who’d risk his life for the sake of another’s and she aspires to be like him.


Owen is a soft boy who loves music and the stars, wanting nothing more than to share them with someone and to protect his family. This tree-siren is an innocent being who yearns for a name, a soul…to be human and not a monster (she reminded me a lot of August from This Savage Song actually). The two of them secretly begin a beautiful, forbidden friendship, as Owen sneaks over the wall each night to show the tree-siren various human creations and discoveries, and she protects him when it’s time for him to go home, refusing to let the wood have Owen’s sweet and pure soul.

Ultimately, however, the happenings in the wood end up being bigger than the two of them and they find themselves drawn into an ancient war between the King of Tarian and the witch of the wood, where they are forced to be on opposite sides. Can Owen protect the ones he loves? Can the tree-siren resist her monstrous nature and the very wood itself?


This faery tale about what it means to be human was so hauntingly beautiful and emotionally evocative. The creepy woods-vibes also really reminded me of Uprooted, The Bone Houses and Strange Grace (all of which I love). I highly recommend this when it releases. I may not love it quite so much as I did Echo North, but I still love it in its own way. :D
Profile Image for emma.
1,872 reviews54.8k followers
December 29, 2021

I can't even say I'm disappointed, because if you asked me aggressively two months ago what I expected to rate this book, I would have said "2.5, and also that's why I've had an advance copy of this for over a year and didn't even touch it until I was forced to by an equally aggressive readathon."

I am, at this moment, and also for most of the last couple of years, not interested in young adult fantasy.

You may want to say, "Emma, that's because you're officially in your mid-twenties, and you've probably outgrown it. It's not for you."

And while you would be right, you would fill me with so much rage and confusing sadness that I would probably cry, which would make me embarrassed, which would make me even angrier.

So let's avoid that.

This is fine. This is the kind of YA fantasy that I didn't love even when I was in my YA fantasy heyday, which is written in vaguely old-timey fancy language and centers around a romance between two teenagers who don't know each other well.

It didn't work for me, but if the genre works for you, this probably will! Who can say anything anymore.

Bottom line: A meh book that managed to bring about a quarter-life crisis.


how many times am i allowed to say i think i'm outgrowing YA fantasy before i have to accept that i've outgrown it?

review to come / 2.5 ish

tbr review

sounds like i'll feel right at home.

(get it? because i'm heartless?)

clear ur shit prompt 12: fantasy

(thanks to the publisher for the copy)
Profile Image for Sofia.
231 reviews6,990 followers
October 14, 2021
This is so sappy. Literally, because Seren is a tree. Figuratively, because there was instalove before page 70.

Review to come...
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 9 books408 followers
September 2, 2021
This dark young adult fantasy was GORGEOUS. So lovely and atmospheric with breathtaking descriptions and haunting beauty in a bleak world where a family lives close to a cursed wood and tree sirens lure souls out to their death. Owen has already lost his mother to the curse of the wood. Now he cares for his young sister (loved the sister) and tries to keep his family going as his father grieves. When he’s on a train to visit the next town, he’s attacked by the forest sirens. He’s the only one spared. He and Seren, the youngest daughter of the witch of the wood, form a forbidden connection. She’s a siren. He’s a human. This had a lovely forbidden love cursed fairy tale feel, and I devoured every bit of it.

Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
Profile Image for BoMo.
137 reviews32 followers
January 15, 2021
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars!

You are only a monster because you choose to be.
I never knew I had a choice until you.

This is a story about a boy who longed for the stars & a tree siren who longed to have a heart.
It is also a fairytale about what it means to be human and about what makes us human.

Once, long ago, a spiteful prince stole the crown of a maiden.

Into the Heartless Wood is a quiet story, crafted so masterfully that it takes hold on your heart from the first sentence and with every page you read it’s roots grow deeper and get stronger until you reach the last page, probably with tears in your eyes.
By then the story will have taken root in your heart and will stay with you forever.

 I may be only seventeen, but all I’ve ever wanted is the sky.

(Owen Merrit)

Owen lives in a house near the wood, looking after his sister and helping his father chart the stars. He is the one holding everything together since his mother vanished into the wood , never to return again.
Most of the book is told from his POV and it is such a wonderful thing. Especially because he is not the typical dashing fearless YA hero. Owen is soft and longs for peace, for the sky , for a quiet corner.

"I am what my mother made me.
I cannot shed the form she gave me
like a snake sheds it’s skin.
Can I?


Serens POV was my favorite thing in the whole book. It’s so raw and pure at the same time, full of despair and yet also hope.
The way it was presented was extraordinary and there are still some of her lines I’ll think about every day.

"I don’t want to be safe, if it means forgetting you."

Once these two met it is literally like a collision of fate.
Every single encounter changes them, forces them to face the harsh truth about themselves and let’s them grow into the person they are meant to be.
Their romance is bittersweet and you can feel their desperation in every glance, every breath, every touch. As their feelings get deeper but the time runs out it’s impossible not to get your own heart broken as well.

Dawn comes.
He slips away.
I wonder
if this
will be the day
or if we will have
another night
under the sky.

All of Joanna Ruth Meyers books are full of magic and longing and despair but also hope and becoming the person you are meant to be...and I adore them all. But this book is my absolute favorite so far.
Profile Image for Deborah O'Carroll.
488 reviews100 followers
December 17, 2021
Whenever I dive into a Joanna Ruth Meyer novel, I prepare to be enchanted, but somehow I never prepare quite enough!

INTO THE HEARTLESS WOOD is a stunning and unique tale, with touches of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (both of which I got so happy about when I noticed nods to them) but simultaneously its own story. I stayed on the edge of my seat the whole time, never knowing what was going to happen next, and utterly enthralled the whole time. I couldn't put it down! With brilliant twists, expertly-woven threads criss-crossing in a dazzling pattern through this skillful tapestry of story, this book enchanted me.

Can we talk about Owen? OWEN. This cinnamon roll character is amazing and must be protected at all costs. 'Scuse me while I steal him from his author and wrap him in bubblewrap. His heart and stargazing and rashness and love and heartbreak. He's just awesome, I can't! And Seren too! I feel like I can't talk much about her without spoilers but her arc was incredible and I love her too. Awk! I adore them and their story so, so much, and they give me all of the feels. They go through so much and grow so much and the way they improve each other and just--! I'm blown away. Go meet them!

The world is amazing and I love it--the woods and castle mixed with slight technology like trains was perfection. (And for some reason I really loved the bits at the palace.) The writing was superb and so immersive, and the way Seren's chapters were almost like poetry was so unique! Oh, and the side characters were awesome, and I especially like Owen's two buddies later in the book. :D

I love how this was a story about people--Owen and Seren and Owen's little sister (aaahh she's adorable!) and aaall the people they meet--but at the same time there's this vast mass of plot building behind them with far-reaching tendrils until it explodes into the forefront at the end. It just felt so well-done, being a story about two people but also what they come up against on both sides (which was...also unique). Sooo fascinating and mythic and amazing!

Quick warning, for anyone who's squeamish, that there's quite a bit of blood and death and darkness here and there, but that's literally the only downside and the book is just amazing. I adore this author's writing and I love how... at home... I felt reading this book. I loved the Welsh-like names and the Maleficent-ish feel.

It's a quintessential fairytale of dark beauty and love and sorrow and redemption. A story of a boy and a tree siren girl who meet against a backdrop of trees and stars. A story that's grown tight around my heart and that I recommend to anyone who needs a dark fairytale and amazing writing in their life. A blazing star against the dark woods. Magnificent.

(I received an eARC copy from the author and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.)
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 31 books489 followers
February 26, 2022
Re-read: This second time around, I appreciated the book even more. The cottagecore aesthetic? The monstrous heroine coming to terms with the darkness in her past? The cinnamon roll hero who cooks, cares for his baby sister, stargazes, and proteccs? And a slow-burn plot hurtling you into an epic, heartbreaking, healing finish? *chef's kiss*


I think this might be my favourite of Meyer's books yet, particularly as it draws less on recognisable existing stories (as BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA did on the SILMARILLION, or ECHO NORTH did on EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON) to create something that feels much more its own tale, while retaining the mythical feel of a fairytale or legend in its own right.

INTO THE HEARTLESS WOOD is the story of a young stargazer's romance with the monstrous tree siren from the Creepy Forest outside his back door...which gradually grows into the tale of a vengeful wood witch trying to get revenge on the sorcerous king who stole her soul. Obviously I love Creepy Forest stories, monster romances, and tales where, while good and evil might be clear-cut, the characters themselves exist in various muddled shades of grey. This book has all of those things in abundance. I particularly liked that both sides of the endless magical war were kind of terrible, and that part of Seren's character arc involved confronting her own complicity in her mother's war. Like all the best monster stories, this one had an uncompromising moral compass.

Joanne Ruth Meyer is an author whose books I always try to catch. In a world of increasingly gritty and mature YA fare, Meyer's books have always remained staunchly noblebright: heartfelt, tender, and hopeful. This one is perhaps a little darker and more violent in content than Meyer's previous books, but it's still a heartfelt, hopeful book which fits firmly into the category of YA books I'd actually recommend to a young reader - as well as being a welcome ray of light in my 2020 reading schedule.
Profile Image for abthebooknerd.
294 reviews145 followers
December 11, 2020
In this atmospheric Beauty & the Beast retelling, Meyer weaves together a tale of humanity and heartbreak destined to captivate fairytale lovers everywhere 🧚

”You are a fool, to wander the wood alone.”

Do you remember those old fairytales that your parents would read you to lull you to sleep? This book is that. Everything from the aesthetic, to the hidden lessons, the prose - it was all so beautiful. The tree sirens and their stories, as well as the backstory with their mother, were so interesting. I also loved the blend of what felt like steampunk, mixed with magic - the entire world had a very soft, understated, and yet elegant feel to it. Lots of Stardust (2007) vibes!

My only qualms were with the love story. I found it difficult that they fell in love with what felt like such a short amount of time. This book was also very prose and plot-oriented. Because of this, I felt a disconnect with the characters at certain moments.

All in all, this was a short, enjoyable read. If you love the moody atmosphere of Naomi Novik’s books, you’ll enjoy this retelling!

A big thank you to Page Street Kids / Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book!

*Note: Any quotes referenced in this review, may or may not be subject to change in the finished copy of the book.
Profile Image for Grace A..
414 reviews39 followers
September 18, 2022
I picked up Into the Heartless Wood without expectations,
but was surprised by the melody 🎵 🎶 of sentences poetically woven into a beautiful story.
It was a nice compelling story of a wood incarnate betrayed by a king, followed by curses, revenge, death and redemption.
It was so beautifully written and poetically crafted, you could almost dance to the string of words. I enjoyed it very much. Four stars.
Profile Image for R.J..
Author 14 books1,425 followers
May 30, 2020
Bewitching, brutal and beautiful. Joanna’s power as a mythic storyteller grows with every book, and this may be my favourite thing she’s written yet.
Profile Image for Caitlin Miller.
Author 8 books188 followers
February 10, 2023
I want to start this review off by saying that I ADORE this author and will read any and all of her future releases. I first read Echo North, and it’s easily one of my favorite books, and then Wind Daughter, and now this book. I…just couldn’t connect with this story as much, and I felt like it had darker undertones than her other books. One thing that really kept me from loving this book was one of the POVs. It’s written in kind of a poetic format, which I usually love, but it distracted me. For example, a lot of the lines were worded/formatted like this:




These lines in and of themselves are totallyyy fine, but it felt kinda choppy and distracting to have each word be on a separate line soooo many times 😅🙈

One theme I really loved in this book was that we don’t have to conform to what others see us as. We’re so much more than the labels people put on us.

Please, please do yourselves a favor and read Echo North—it’s so very good! 🥲🥰
Profile Image for Lindsay (pawsomereads).
782 reviews424 followers
September 30, 2020
Into the Heartless Wood was a true masterpiece. It read just like a classic fairytale and was completely spellbinding from the very beginning.
This story followed a boy who yearned for the stars and a tree siren in search of her soul. The two are separated on either side of a war with tensions that have been building for hundreds of years between the king of Tarian and the witch of the woods, Gwydden. Owen, the son of the king’s astronomer, always hated the woods for stealing his mother away from him. After he was forced to venture into those same woods to save his little sister, he formed a bond with an unlikely savior in Gwydden’s youngest daughter, Seren. Owen and Seren were swept up in the ancient war and were compelled by powers greater than they were able to fight.
I absolutely loved the writing style. It’s beautifully descriptive and captivating. It really draws you to the characters and into the world as a whole. The contrast that Joanna Ruth Meyer crafted between Owen and Seren’s perspectives was so masterful. Seren’s poetic and lyrical point of view fully captured the mystical qualities of the woods she comes from.
The plot was fast-paced with lots of twists and turns. The magic and battle between the sky and the watch was so interesting and I wish we got to know a bit more of the backstory on the magic. I liked that there was no clear villain or hero on either side of the battle. There was no one side that felt fully right to root for and that kind of moral conflict is so rarely explored in YA books.
The whole book was the epitome of atmospheric, creating a dream-like fantasy full of romance and adventure.
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,837 reviews427 followers
July 24, 2023
Into the Heartless Wood has an immense Little Mermaid of the Forest vibe... But the original Hans Christian Andersen variant. I don't want to give too much away, but you can get the gist from that.

The pace was mostly good, there were a few slow sections.

I loved the creepy vibe of the forest and how downright horrific the tree sirens were in their disregard for human life. The king added in a nice element. What I really loved was the way that Owen's family was woven into the branches of the forest. The duel perspective narration between him and Seren made for an interesting read. Seren was obviously my fav character as a tree siren herself.

There is a lot to speculate about in this tale. Family, the relationship to one's mother, as well as souls, hearts, and the reading of stars.

I honestly wish there could have been even MORE about the trees. I would be absolutely down for more tree relative books.

Overall, it was enjoyable. A solid 4 star read.
Profile Image for Madison.
426 reviews5,130 followers
January 8, 2021
"I want him to look into my eyes and not be afraid. I want him to see me as something more than a monster."

A stunning and sad tale about a boy who loves the star, a monstrous girl, and the ancient war that splits them apart.

For centuries the witch, Gwydden, has ruled the woods. She sends out her eight tree-siren daughters to lure men and women to their deaths and collect their souls to feed the Heartless Tree. The Kingdom of Tarian lives in fear of the woods and its growing power but nothing defeats the Witch.

Owen Merrick lives on the edge of Gwydden's Wood. Ever since his mother was taken by the woods a year ago, Owen has assumed his father's role of mapping the stars for the King and caring for his younger sister. When his sister is lured by a siren's song, he ventures into the woods to bring her back. There he meets the youngest of Gwydden's daughters, a tree-siren who decides to save his life instead of ending it.

Suddenly, Owen finds himself sneaking out to meet with the tree-siren and stare at the stars. And the siren finds herself wondering if she is more than the monster she was made to be. But when an ancient war between the Witch and the King reignites, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield and their relationship hanging by a thread.

I have enjoyed Joanna's writing in the past but never have I read a story like this. Into the Heartless Wood is akin to a fairytale - not one that is happiness and rainbows, but one filled with darkness and sacrifice. This is a story about star-crossed lovers pitted on opposite sides of a war. It is, loosely, a genderbent retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I was stunned by this story. It is not a five-star read for me, but from a technical standpoint this is a five-star story.

Seren (the Monster) had such a unique story. Her POV was written almost like poetry and I fell in love with it. She was a being created for destruction, a being without a soul, a being called a monster. But she never wanted to kill. She never wanted to be her mother's creature. She thought she had no choice in the matter. When she meets a young astrologer in the woods, she starts to wonder if she was wrong. She sees his soul as something worth saving and he starts to see her as something other than a monster. Seren begins to yearn for a human life, a life free from the clutches of her mother. She doesn't want to be a killer, she doesn't want to be seen as a monster in the eyes of the boy who made her realise that there is beauty in the world. Her journey was hauntingly beautiful.

Owen was really interesting to follow. He undergoes many changes throughout our story. At first he is an innocent man who just wants to help his family survives, then he being to fall for a monster who helped kill his mother. He is torn between believing in this creature, this girl, and looking out for his family and believing in the stories he has been told his entire life. Owen is an incredibly loyal character that is fiercely protective over those he loves. Owen grows strong in his beliefs as he begins to find himself in the middle of a war he never wanted a part of.

Our side characters weren't fleshed out as much as I would've liked, but that didn't take away from the magic of this story. As you read the book you know that it is steeped in grief and betrayal and you keep readying yourself for the worst. I loved the development of our characters and how the plot wrapped up.

Their story was bewitching and brutal and I hope everyone gets a chance to read it.
Profile Image for Restless Isabelle.
201 reviews17 followers
February 9, 2021
Time to call it, DNF at 53%.

Absolutely devastated I didn’t love this as I was really looking forward to this. The synopsis sounded moody, dark and twisty with some whimsy but, nope. For a book about lush, deadly forests it felt so dull and grey and meh.

The characters felt flat. I just couldn’t care. The stylistic choice with the tree sirens chapters made it SO HARD to connect with her in any way.

Anyway, there you go. Incoherent review because sad.
Profile Image for ✩ Yaz ✩.
522 reviews1,663 followers
March 8, 2021
3.5 - ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths.

Into the Heartless Wood is a reminiscent of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and it tells the story of a star-crossed romance between a Tree Siren and a human boy.

The story is very fairytale-like with a darker tone to it. There are the eight vicious Tree Sirens living in the woods, daughters of an evil wood witch queen known as Gwyeddon who unleashes her daughters upon the world to harvest human souls to feed the heartless trees and expand their blood-drenched kingdom of birch and death.

I love that the roles have been reversed in this story, it's refreshing to see a vulnerable male hero and a female heroine with a villainous backstory.

I think the plot would've benefited from more development, but I liked that it was fast-paced and did not drag the story too long, it kept on moving forward.

The romance happened a little too quickly but it follows the format of fairytale so it did not bother me much. The love story between Owen and Seren was sweet, gentle and heartbreaking.

It's a lovely read and I recommend it to those that enjoy folklore-ish and fairytale-like stories.

Profile Image for Kristina.
274 reviews82 followers
May 15, 2021
Into the Heartless Wood was a very atmospheric read and I loved the folklore vibes of the story. Those aspects were very well done and my favorite thing about the book. The writing was beautiful at times, but there were also times that things didn't match up with the story and that was annoying. Unfortunately, the characters and their romance didn't shine for me either. This was not a bad book by any means, but I didn't love it as much as I hoped I would. If you like books with a cursed wood and romance maybe give this one a try.
Profile Image for Tracey Dyck.
Author 3 books79 followers
December 19, 2022
Haunting, lyrical, and heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s a story of dangerous woods, stars, forbidden love, family bonds, and what it means to have a heart and a soul.

(And as a side note, I love that this is a fantasy world where railroads and telegraphs exist!)
Profile Image for Hannah Whitten.
Author 6 books2,510 followers
September 21, 2019
I got to read an early draft of this beautiful book and it absolutely lives up to its amazing description. Get excited.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,751 reviews621 followers
May 4, 2021
Given my reaction to her first book, I was prepared to be let down by this book, but now I'm glad I gave Joanna Ruth Meyer another chance, because her retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" is exceptional. Great characters, original plotline, harrowing challenges, excellent romance; it had it all! And, more importantly for a B&B enthusiast that's read hundreds of books with this theme, it does stay true to the heart of B&B even though the story is in no way like Villeneuve's or Beaumont's save for loose inspiration (it has more of Celtic mythology than proper B&B). The spirit is there, the archetypes are there, the lesson is there, and it's perfect!
Profile Image for Jack.
155 reviews15 followers
August 12, 2021
I wanted to read this back when I saw the release date back in 2020. However, I somehow forgot about it aааnd suddenly it’s translated. So, I got the book in Russian.
I really enjoyed reading it. Even despite the fact that the book strongly reminds me of an essay with a fixed min number of pages. Because you see, the starting pages from Serena the siren
Look somewhat
and the further
it gets
the funnier

The book is so easy to read. And not even because half of the chapters are written two words on a line.

Back when I added the book to my TBR I had this strong feeling that it’s been inspired by something. I got the vibe of it just when we got introduced to the main conflict of the plot. You see, this book is like “Maleficent” with Angelina Jolie but throw Aurora away and add more war and blood. Plus, we have a stolen soul instead of stolen wings. Even considering the fact that the focus of the story is on Serena and Owen, this “Maleficent” atmosphere is strong, especially during the final battle. It’s like “wanna like in the movie but darker”.

And… about it being darker…
We have this soul-love-heart-morals fairytale vibe and either it’s the Russian text or it’s the atmosphere but the book seems so light and, idk, soft? We have this fairytale love between a tree girl and this noble young boy, a bad evil villain king, and an evil forest queen, etc. But the story itself has elements that just dissociate with this. Like, you know,

I also found my favourite scene in the book. So, look.
The forest kidnapped the boy’s mother. The boy’s family thought her dead.
The boy and we get a one-in-a-million kind of dialogue that goes like this (summary):

This scene is like two pages! And that’s it! And the pathos!
This is so rushed it got me laughing for like a minute. My friend summarized it even better:
-- Mother, you’re the mother. Remember?
-- No.
-- But you are.
-- Ah my sоn!

Okay, back to the weird violence. It’s not about the people only, the sirens participate too. They’re not human but during their conflicts, there is a lot of pain and sap instead of blood, broken branches instead of fingers, screams, flowers ripped from heads, and so on. So, in the end, the impression I got was… pretty mixed.

Instalove moves the plot. Love wins. Sacrifices. Everyone is dead but actually not. ⚰⚰cemetery 💀 . Like, really.

Also, in the end, we get a strategic piano in the bushes in the form of the fact that Owen’s army friend suddenly turns out to I suddenly remembered there were other countries in the book. They were mentioned before but… it was so “somewhere there” that seemed non-existent. So when we get a political plot element, in the end, it’s like – ah? What? Where? Do we have that?

Overall, the book is easy to read, and I like evil trees and betrayals so I really had a lot of fun reading the story. Does it have a structure of a pure scheme of a story, not filled with, idk, “life”? Like fairytales that go from the starting point straight to the epilogue showing just morals and a minimum of necessary elements. There’re are not that many elements to make the story memorable.

Ah, to wrap it up: the “am I a monster or do I have the right to live a life” drama every two chapters is really something.

To read if: you want something easy and fairytale-like; you like stories with love between a human and a supernatural creature; you like the concept of redemption through sacrifice; you like the atmosphere of a cruel magic forest.
Do not read if: you want detailed motivation and plot-driven by something except a sudden romance; you don’t like the idea of missing a typical fairytale with overly graphic cruelty; you want politics anf villains that are in the book for more than 1,5% of the plot.
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965 reviews224 followers
February 14, 2021
This was the first book I read off my 2021 five star prediction and I definitely was not disappointed!

This is a whimsical, dark, and beautifully written fantasy romance that follows a world that is being overtaken by an evil forest. The forest is haunted by a witch and her 4 tree siren daughters who lure and kill anyone who enters the forest. But when one of the tree sirens meets a young boy who lives on the edge of the woods, she begins to question whether or not evil is something you are or choose.

This book explores what it means to be human. There are many "evil" characters in here but somehow the author weaves a backstory to make you sympathize with all of them.

I absolutely fell in love with the dual perspective and stylistic choices that author made for each perspective. The writing was so immersive and kept me flipping the page for me.

I was completely swept away by the romance and magical world. This book definitely gets a brutal so trigger warnings for scenes of war and death. But the ending was beyond beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. I honestly can't rave about this book enough.

I can't wait to check out Joanna Ruth Meyer's backlist and everything she releases in the future!

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