The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.
To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.
The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?
THE WAKING FOREST pulses with dark, fairy tale enchantment. Alyssa Wees’s debut YA fantasy novel is saturated with a magical atmosphere and gorgeous writing.
It is about a girl with terrifying nightmares and a wish-granting witch who lives in the forest and how their lives become entwined in a world somewhere between sleeping and waking.
Wees writes with such subtlety, each word crafted to fall upon your senses in the most delightful of ways.
The story alternates between the wish-granting witch living in the woods and Rhea, a young teen who wonders if the forest and her nightmares are somehow real.
The story carefully unwinds with each chapter bringing the reader closer to the mystery behind their connection.
At times it is as twisty as the tree branches that appear like a mirage between the edges of Rhea’s backyard and the witch’s throne.
When the “Fox Who Is No Fox” appears before the witch and begins to tell her stories of torn-hearts and magic; of a fairy story that is no fairy story, and ask the witch what she truly wishes for, things begin to unravel quickly.
There is a lot to love about this debut book. Besides the beautiful writing, the author makes sure Rhea’s family remain an important feature throughout the story. Her sisters and parents are everything to her and the story reflect this.
I also thought the depiction of anxiety, something Rhea deals with due to her nightmares, was well-written and felt authentic. There was no magical quick fix to it, but rather a realistic look and attitude of it. I loved how Rhea is fierce in this aspect, challenging it every step of the way.
My one issue is once the two stories merge, which is about three-fourths into the book, the story lost some of its allure for me. The transition felt like it could have been written with a bit more work to it. I lost some of the fairy tale feel and enchantment at that point.
In the End
THE WAKING FOREST is a standalone debut that stands apart with its fairy tale quality and certainly an exciting new author to watch for. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy slow-burn reads of magical realism and dark, retellings. It’s whimsical and twisty, and I can’t wait for more from Alyssa Wees.
About the Alyssa Wees
In between training in ballet and watching lots of Disney movies, Alyssa grew up writing stories starring her Beanie Babies. She earned a BA in English from Creighton University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Currently she works as an assistant librarian in youth services at an awesome public library. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and their two cats.
For a copy of The Waking Forest! (US Only)