Release date: 19 September 2023 (US), 26 October 2023 (UK)
Narrator: Sarah Ovens
Book boxes: FairyLoot October YA
Synopsis: "Tell me again, Grandmère, the story of how I die."
The Midnight Forest. The Fanged Creature. Two fortune-telling cards that spell an untimely death for 17-year-old Clara. Despite the ever-present warning from her fortune-teller grandmother, Clara embarks on a dangerous journey into the deadly Forest Grimm to procure a magical book―Sortes Fortunae, the Book of Fortunes―with the power to reverse the curse on her village and save her mother.
Years ago, when the villagers whispered their deepest desires to the book, its pages revealed how to obtain them. All was well until someone used the book for an evil purpose―to kill another person. Afterward, the branches of the Forest Grimm snatched the book away, the well water in Grimm’s Hollow turned rancid, and the crops died from disease. The villagers tried to make amends with the forest, but every time someone crossed its border, they never returned.
Now, left with no alternative, Clara and her close friend, Axel―who is fated never to be with her―have set their minds to defying fate and daring to accomplish what no one else has been able to before. But the forest―alive with dark, deadly twists on some of our most well-known fairy tales―has a mind of its own.
Even though I didn’t quite enjoy this book as much as I’d hoped to, I still don’t feel it should get below four stars for a couple of reasons. First: it’s YA appropriate. No graphic 1,000-year-old fairy and 17-year-old human sexual content. No explicit language. None of the stuff that should only be in New Adult or Adult books was in this one. Second: it’s a great Spooky Season selection for readers who like that sort of thing. Now, if I had not just read another Grimm retelling with a remarkably similar vibe (After the Forest), I would definitely sing this one’s praises. As it is, spooky, witchy, Grimm stuff seems to be the rage this 2023 Spooky Season, so it was repetitive to me and my eyes glossed over for quite a bit of it. Don’t let that deter you from reading it if it sounds interesting to you; I really did feel it was a great book objectively.
I’m always a sucker for atmospheric reads set in the woods with a little bit of spookiness to them, and The Forest Grimm ticks these marks in spades. Nearly the entire book is set in a cursed forest; stuff moves around and there are creepy cottages and towers with even creepier folks living in them. Throw in a pretty intimidating wolf running around chasing after folks in the woods and the village, and your starter recipe for a great fall reading weekend with some pumpkin spice whatever is good to go.
Clara and Axel enter these woods in order to find their missing village neighbors, including Clara’s mother and Axel’s fiancée. The whole storyline is a pretty simple, linear progression of time passing from encounter to encounter of different characters, dangerous nights, and missing stuff. Rinse and repeat several times and you have a cookie-cutter forest-setting fairytale retelling.
I’m not going to harp on the story’s simplicity too much. It is a YA. I can’t expect it to be more than it is. It wasn’t bad. It was typical YA fare. The prose was poetic and descriptive enough to complement the plot and nurture a feeling of foreboding. It has great characters (though I liked the side characters more than the main ones—why is that usually the case with me?) and great world building. I’ll definitely be giving the second book a read.
The audio experience for this one was so-so for me. I think the narration was a bit high-pitched and soft for my ears; I had a hard time hearing and had to blast it. It wasn’t unpleasant, just difficult to hear for me.
My thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books (Macmillan) for the ALC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.