Review | Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Title: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Published: November 5, 2019

Genre(s): fantasy, young adult, witches, romance

Read as: hardcover, owned, OwlCrate edition

Rating: 4

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why. (Goodreads)

“I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want the crack inside me to widen, for the ocean of loneliness to creep in. I don’t want to drown.”

Minor spoilers to follow

Did I really know what I was getting into when I picked up Shea Ernshaw’s Winterwood off my shelf? Not in particular. But, I had read her The Wicked Deep and adored it even though it wasn’t my usual type of book so I figured, heck, lets give this a try.

I truly was not disappointed.

I love Ernshaw’s writing. I’ve seen reviews stating that her sentence structure is staccato and there are frequent sentence fragments. Is that true? To a point, yes. But if you read it in your head in a soft, flowing voice, one meant for quietly mysterious campfire tales, it is absolutely perfect for the vibe and overall feel of the story.

After reading the description of this book, I went in expecting a kind of ghost story which followed the vibe she had started in The Wicked Deep which, interestingly, was mentioned offhandedly in Winterwood. However, if you weren’t aware of the setting of The Wicked Deep it wouldn’t effect your enjoyment of this particular story.

It is obvious very early on who our ghost is and I don’t think Ernshaw tried particularly hard to hide it. Why? This story isn’t about the ghost. It isn’t about the mystery and the bevy of side characters. No, this story is about Nora and her desire to become a Walker, a witch, like her grandmother before her. For generations the women in her family have displayed extraordinary tendencies but Nora has yet to discover her’s. This story is about her personal desire to discover what her quiet power is and where she fits into the line of Walker witches.

A ghost just so happens to help her find her place, helps her to center herself, and adds a delightful quiet mystery to the story.

I think when people give this book a low rating it is because they focus on the ghost aspect, the mystery, but since that isn’t the point of the story they are missing out on the point of the story. If you don’t read this as a young woman desperate to find her place, mourning her grandmother, and longing to belong to the Walker history she holds so dear then you will be missing out on the fundamental heart of this book.

Overall, I loved Winterwood. The atmosphere was carefully crafted and easily felt and the story a quiet yet powerful tale. Ernshaw’s writing was gripping and held onto me all the way until the end. I would recommend this if you are looking for an atmospheric coming of age story with a bit of a spooky setting.

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