Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: The White Forest by Adam McOmber

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: September 11, 2012
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.  A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late."

Jane Silverlake is a peculiar girl.  Her mother died and her father never got over it; consequently, he neglects her and their family estate in the heath of Victorian England.  She barely ever leaves the house until one day, Madeline, a new girl to town rescues her from her misery and befriends her.  They even allow a lord's son, Nathan, to accompany them on their daily walks and in turn, the three become fast friends.  Jane isn't your normal girl though.  She has a gift.  She can see into the souls of man-made objects and one day she confesses that she has this gift to Nathan and Maddie.  Nathan is instantly intrigued as he has always had an interest in all things supernatural and Maddie is simply annoyed.  You see, both girls have a crush on Nathan and vie for his attention, which creates some thick tension between the three now that they are older.  Nathan comes back from war feeling very disillusioned and shows an interest in a "spiritual" cult led by a man named Ariston Day.  Ariston targets the rich sons of London's upper class and pretty much brainwashes them.  Nathan slowly becomes absorbed by Ariston and his cult.  Eventually, he goes missing, which practically destroys Jane and Maddie's world.  A famous inspector named Vidocq comes to London to figure out what happened to Nathan and things then start to get serious.  Jane realizes that many of her secrets may come out before she knows it; however, the two girls will do anything to find Nathan.  Adam McOmber's debut, The White Forest, is an engaging tale that adult readers of fantasy and the Gothic genre will appreciate.

Jane is such a strange main character and her gift only makes her that much more unusual.  I felt badly for her though; she's such a loner and socially inept.  Thankfully, Maddie teaches her a bit about life and attempts to break her out of her shell.  Their relationship is complex, but I think that's because of Nathan.  As the two girls aged, they both competed for Nathan's attentions and Jane, with her gift, really started to take the spotlight from beautiful Maddie.  Nathan was extremely interested in Jane's gift to the point where it became an obsession.  But Jane just wanted some special attention from Nathan; she didn't care how she got it, even though sharing her gift might have started to take its toll on Nathan.  The love triangle between the three was definitely a bad romance in The White Forest.

The setting of The White Forest definitely adds to the haunting atmosphere of the Gothic story. The heath seems like such an ominous, eerie, cold, and mysterious place. It's the perfect location for McOmber's story and adds to the strangeness of the plot.  I wouldn't expect anything less from a Gothic story.

The mystery of what happened to Nathan kept me reading long into the night.  I love that Jane took matters into her own hands and tried to get some answers.  She challenged the rules of Victorian England and I like that kind of feistiness in my heroine.  

I rarely read adult fantasy, but The White Forest was better than I expected. I must admit that I didn't fully understand Jane's gift, but nonetheless, I had an open mind.  It reminded me of a story written by Edgar Allan Poe--it was that eerie!  In fact, The White Forest is one of the strangest and most unique stories I have EVER read. I kept saying to myself as I was reading it, "This is so weird.....Wow- that's strange," but I never put the book down; I was completely invested in Jane's tale.

If you are looking for a spine-tingling story to read this autumn, The White Forest will really set the mood. It's the perfect read for the start of chilly nights and colder days. It has romance, mystery, betrayal, suspense, violence, and a quirky heroine with supernatural powers. What more could you ask for?


7 comments:

  1. I'm so happy to see a positive review for White Forest! I've been looking forward to reading it, but I've seen lots of mixed thoughts. I'm definitely ready to dive into the weird :)

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  2. This book sounds really interesting, I'm really into the spiritual plot books. I love knowing that the plot keeps you reading and that you just need to know what happens. Can't wait to check this book out!

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    1. It was definitely unique and the plot is very engaging. I hope you get your hands on a copy, Andrea. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I was thinking the same thing as I was reading the description. I don't quite understand her gift. And I see that you don't even after reading it. But it seems to me that the gift isn't the main focus here, which might be best.

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