Liriel27's Reviews > The Woodcutter

The Woodcutter by Kate Danley
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's review
Apr 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fairy-tale-retellings, fantasy, first-reads, myth-retellings-and-criticism, odd, supernatural-mysteries
Recommended for: Fairy-tale enthusiasts

Full disclosure: I won this book from First Reads.

I liked this book. A lot. I didn't think I was going to at first - the premise took a while to grow on me, and the short chapters initially felt too abrupt. I'm not generally a big fan of 2-5 page chapters, but they worked for the episodic nature of this as it got further into the story, making it feel more dream-like and (for lack of a clearer term) story-shaped, like the in-drawn breath of someone answering "And then what happened?"

I would have liked for the rules of the world to be established a bit more clearly, or earlier - I understand the point was for it to unfold slowly, but some of the descriptions of the central problem felt out of place with the style of the rest of the book.

The basic premise is this: the Woodcutter (and yes, we are much with the archetypes here) is in charge of monitoring the goings-on in the Wood and the Twelve Kingdoms, all of which normally follow the fairy-tale patterns of pre-Victorian, unsanitized Grimm and Anderson (with a bit of Mother Goose, mythology, and some of the more obscure tales thrown in for good measure). Only now things have stopped running according to plan, and he has to figure out what and who is behind it before the balance of magic gets completely out of whack and undoes the world.

Knowledge of the basics of fairy tales is something of a prerequisite to understanding the structure and story, as you might expect. Those familiar with the original stories and patterns will find much that is familiar here, and part of the delight is in figuring out the allusions and connections and how they have shifted from the originals. Those who are familiar only with Disney may well end up confused by some of this. Those who have never heard any fairy tales will throw this book against the wall in exasperation.

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