Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Book Review: Escape From Witchwood Hollow

3 Stars
Verdict: Intriguing but not thrilling.

Everyone in Arnn - a small farming town with more legends than residents - knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.


Escape From Witchwood Hollow will always stand out to me as unusual in a good way. The eerie feeling of the hollow drew me in, and the multiple timelines developed steadily in a way that kept me thinking about where the story might be going. I’m a fan of the author and always surprised by some of her ideas, but overall this book didn’t hit the right notes for me.

There were three main perspectives, each with different stories surrounding the haunted Witchwood Hollow.

First we have schoolgirl Honoria from 2001. There’s not much to say about her, other than she’s still grieving the loss of her parents from the September 11th tragedy. I found her section just too bland with too many mundane events, and the romance was written in a very dry way.

Next up is the tale of a murderous witch from 1670. Lady Clifford’s perspective enthralled me, with her strange view on life and creepy thoughts. She seemed very unstable, and that’s what really pulled me in. I never knew whether she was going to snap, and every scene involving her was instantly tense.

Finally, we have Albertine from 1850. Albertine fascinated me. I had to face palm her naivety a few times, but I grew to like her. She didn’t always understand what was made so clear to the reader, and the use of dramatic irony really kept me reading. I thought the ‘tap tap tap’ would become more significant later on, and possibly in an incredibly creepy way, but it never really developed. I couldn’t help but feel it was a lost opportunity to really send shivers down a reader’s spine.

In Albertine and Honoria’s sections, the side characters piled high. I get the feeling this would have worked better as a novella with fewer character and less from Honoria perspective overall. If the book took a slightly different turn around mid-way, it could have been fantastically chilling. Instead, nothing major happened to carry the story forwards. Although parts still intrigued me, the tension ebbed away. I didn’t know what the book was building to, and it ended on that feeling for me.

I liked how the book linked together at the very end, but I didn’t like Albertine’s ending. Without adding in spoilers, I’ll just say it felt like no one actually did anything substantial to resolve the conflict, and then it was resolved. I didn’t really like Honoria’s ending either. I was expecting a fascinating twist, but instead it was more of a round off.

Sometimes the writing was clean and easy to read, each word slipping off the page. Other times it told rather than showed. My boyfriend read a line over my shoulder about a man’s beard, and we proceeded to discuss what the author had intended from this perplexing description.

I guess what I didn’t like so much about the book was the unfulfilled potential. I kept seeing snippets of fantastic writing and gripping storytelling, but then those snippets would pass by.

As I said before, I’m a fan of the author, but I think they’re still a book or two away from writing something utterly brilliant. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an intriguing story with a constant pace, but I can’t say more than that.

Source: Review copy from the author.