The Waking Forest by Alyssa WeesThe Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

The Waking Forest

byAlyssa Wees

Hardcover | March 12, 2019

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Pan's Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

"Bewitching, sensuous, and spiked with the unexpected--The Waking Forest is a fever dream you won't ever want to leave."-Joan He, author of The Descendent of the Crane


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?

"A stunning, spooky, and lyrical debut....The pacing is taut as the tension steadily ramps up, creating an atmospheric read that is impossible to put down. A sure hit for readers of edgy fantasy and fans of Stephanie Garber's Caraval or Heidi Heilig's The Girl from Everywhere."-SLJ, Starred Review

"[A] masterfully woven fantasy debut...[with] an intricate pattern crafted to twist, invert, and fall apart with exquisite precision. Into the woods like never before."-Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"Wees layers worlds and characters with cleverness and subtlety,...darkly satisfying."-The Bulletin

"A twisting mix of modern story and fantasy tale."-Booklist
Alyssa Wees's debut novel is The Waking Forest. She lives and writes in Chicago. To learn more about Alyssa and her writing, go to her website, alyssawees.com, and follow @AlyssaWees on Twitter.
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Title:The Waking ForestFormat:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 8.56 × 5.81 × 0.99 inPublished:March 12, 2019Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0525581162

ISBN - 13:9780525581161

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dreamy, Fairy-Tale esque The Waking Forest is a different sort of novel than many I come across in the YA category and it will not be for everyone, but I loved the dreamy, fairy tale-esque way this author wrote. I've seen a lot of mixed reviews on this novel, but I tried not to read any reviews prior to reading the novel, so I wouldn't have my opinion swayed in any way and I really can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Alyssa Wees is a master of words, the writing is stunning. Her descriptions are rich and full of life. The Waking Forest goes back and forth between two young girls and two completely different worlds. Rhea, is from our world and lives with her sisters and parents in a quiet little beach house. The family is seen as odd by outsiders, so they mostly keep to themselves. Rhea has nightmares/visions that have haunted her since she was a child and the lines between reality and dreaming seem to be blurring more and more. Then we have the Witch of the Woods, she is the granter of children's wishes and a fox has shown up to tell her a story. Rhea and the Witch's stories are told side by side and slowly start to come together and reveal an amazing connection. I grew up on fairytales, especially the Fairy Books that were put together by Andrew Lang, so I really almost feel nostalgic when I come across a slower paced novel that has some of those elements that I adored so much as a child (and an adult!). The perspective of The Witch in the Woods gave me all those warm feelings in spades. It's just so lovely. I did find the first chapter of this novel confusing, really confusing. The author went into the realm of purple prose a little too hard and lost some context because of the flowery writing - this does happen in a few other places, but I didn't find it particularly hard to understand once it the story got moving. I really appreciate that at the heart of this story, it's about family. There are caring and loving parents present and the relationship between the sisters was magical. Yes, they didn't always get along but you knew how much they all meant to each other. I love books with strong sibling relationships that don't focus heavily on romance, so I was pleasantly surprised at finding those qualities in this book. Something else that I thought was done really well was the depiction of anxiety. It felt very authentic and wasn't glossed over or cured overnight. I'm so happy we are seeing more and more realistic mental health inclusion. Oh, and I can't forget Gabriel, she's a little fox! If you put a little fox, wolf or even a dog in your story and no harm comes to them - I'm pretty much going to love it. I can't not! It's a freaking fox! Why don't I have one! I will say that once the stories do merge, there is a bit of a rough start at the connections but overall I thought it worked pretty well. A few things could have been developed a little more, but I was ultimately satisfied with how it all ended. I really appreciate a stand-alone fantasy because even though we are getting more lately - it's still a rare occurrence overall and I don't always feel like making a commitment of six books when I start something. Overall, I can't recommend this book to everyone. If you love lyrical, beautiful writing with a slow burn or old fairy tales then I think this book is worth checking out. It's worth having for the cover alone - I mean look at that! It's a thing of beauty! The Waking Forest unfolds slowly but still has a lasting impact. I'll certainly be checking out the author's future works.
Date published: 2019-03-11

Read from the Book

Let’s start with the Witch in the Woods.   Only children could find her, the Witch, led by foxes faintly glowing in the darkness between sleeping and waking. Together they traveled through dreamland until they came to an archway like an eye half open, big enough only to crawl through.   Beneath the stars, the moon a bouquet of blue-violet bruises, the Witch lived in a castle with turrets of unnaturally thick tree trunks and broad walls of entwined branches and leaves, the battlements formed by the oversize molars of some unfathomable animal. The crisscrossed bones of the portcullis gleamed in the milky midnight light as the drawbridge of melded cloven hooves lowered over a rushing red river.   At the end of a winding hallway illuminated by row upon row of skeleton-hand sconces, each holding a steady flame that burned without the aid of wick or wax or wood, the Witch sat in a seat carved from a canine tooth nearly twice her height, situated at the very center of the castle in a wide, round room with no ceiling, the walls stretching up, up, up and curving inward, just slightly. The foxes could see her, every facet and feature, all at once, a full picture. They grinned and curled up beside her bare feet, licking their paws and waiting and watching.   A single fox with orange fur so dark it was almost red perched on the arm of her throne, watching now as a troop of bright-eyed foxes, trailed by a girl and a boy with their arms intertwined, eagerly approached the inimitable Witch.   The children could focus only on one small piece of her at a time: lips glossed in silver starlight, onyx eyes lined with gold glitter, curling black hair threaded with pearls. Kneecaps hard as diamonds, just visible beneath the hem of her scarlet dress; thin hands and long fingers, nails short and bitten. Smooth skin stretched taut over the sticks and bulbs of her bones, slick and shining with an eternal, unbreakable fever.   As the pair came closer, the Witch saw that these were not quite her usual visitors. The girl was not a child. She had seen sixteen summers, or perhaps seventeen, nearly the same number as the Witch herself. The girl had long, light hair, and blue eyes with lashes so fair, they could hardly be seen. She was a spill of sunshine in the shape of a girl, golden and firm, and she walked as if afraid she might fall right through the floor, every step delicate, tentative.   The boy was even older than the girl and was surely her brother, for though they looked nothing alike, there seemed to be a kind of magnetic trust that kept them tethered side by side. He had an angular face with lips red as wine, hair black as soot, flesh paler than a ghost moon at high noon. There were gashes on the backs of his hands, old ones and new ones, crossing in all directions, shallow ones over deep gouges, scabbed over and reopened.   The Witch curled her fingers against the arms of her throne, not quite fists--but almost. She scratched the slick ivory surface, the skirl of nail against tooth echoing around the chamber. The red-furred fox at her side lifted its head and growled. She had never growled at any of the children before.   When the Witch spoke, her voice was cream burnt at the edges, unspooling from her long dark throat like twisted obsidian silk.   “I am the Witch of Wishes,” she said. “What would you ask of me?”   The children knew exactly what to ask for, always, and that was why only they could find her. But these two were much older than those little ones, and so not content to merely receive their wish and be on their way.   “What are you?” breathed the girl, staring squarely at the Witch while her brother beside her smiled, lips pressed together as if he already knew the answer. But the longer he stood there gazing at the Witch’s castle, the more his smile hardened into a grimace. He looked at the snapping foxes and the lopsided stars and the brambly walls, and finally back at the Witch.   “What is this place?” he asked. “Where are we?”   The Witch smiled, her maw growing wider, so no one would ever guess how her atoms were held together by an unheard howl. Her world, her castle--it had not wanted to be created. It had been pulled out of her sleeping heart, and it had hurt. The pain had never faded, a perpetual poison with no known antidote. But she could not, would not collapse; her world must go on.   And even as she grinned, she did not stop scraping her throne, peeling enamel instead of her own skin, the itch inflaming her backward-beating heart.   “What would you ask of me?” she said again.   The girl grabbed her wrinkled skirt and curtsied, a movement quick and clean, her cream-curls bouncing around her shoulders.   “I wish to stay here with you,” said the girl in a rush. “I want to grant wishes to those who need them most. I want always to live in a dream.”   The Witch hesitated; no visitor had ever asked something like this of her before. It was the one wish she knew she should not grant--this world was her own, and she must live here alone. For the girl this was only a resting place, a sighing place, its gate open to her once and then never again. To stay would be to sleep, neither dead nor alive, on and on until the end of time.   No, the Witch decided, she would not grant the girl’s wish.   But the girl did not have to know that.

Editorial Reviews

"Bewitching, sensuous, and spiked with the unexpected—The Waking Forest is a fever dream you won't ever want to leave."-Joan He, author of The Descendent of the Crane★ "A stunning, spooky, and lyrical debut....The pacing is taut as the tension steadily ramps up, creating an atmospheric read that is impossible to put down. A sure hit for readers of edgy fantasy and fans of Stephanie Garber's Caraval or Heidi Heilig's The Girl from Everywhere."–SLJ, Starred Review★ "[A] masterfully woven fantasy debut...[with] an intricate pattern crafted to twist, invert, and fall apart with exquisite precision. Into the woods like never before."-Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review "Wees layers worlds and characters with cleverness and subtlety,...darkly satisfying."-The Bulletin"A twisting mix of modern story and fantasy tale."-Booklist