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Book Club Mon Mar 04 2013

Review: The White Forest by Adam McOmber


The White Forest by Adam McOmber, published by Touchstone, is a tale set in the late 19th century in England, centralized on the life of a young teenage heroine, Jane Silverlake, and her two companions, Maddy and Nathan.

Jane is a young woman possessing magical talents she inherited from her mother. She experiences an alternate dimension, can hear inanimate objects hum, moan, and speak to her, and sees imagery in her world that she alone can see. The heroine is a mixed combination of Regan of The Exorcist, Hermione from the Harry Potter series, and a young Miss Havisham living in a crumbled estate. Early in the text, the character is intriguing. We learn about her "talents", her upbringing, her tragic, yet interesting life. But soon enough, I became bored and unsympathetic to her. She is a tragic figure, anti-social, and odd. I did not find myself rooting for her, but rather tired of listening to her perspective. As a heroine, she falls flat. The character lacks dimension and personality, and as she serves as the narrator of the text, the entire story becomes tiresome.

Jane's two best comrades are Nathan Ashe and Madeline Lee. Both Maddy and Jane have feelings for Nathan, which proves to be a major source of tension in the story. The story centers on the mysterious disappearance of Nathan after joining a cult of fictional cult prophet, Ariston Day, a David Koresh like figure of Victorian England. The potential of where this storyline could go was alluring, but soon enough the story becomes a mystical, multi-dimensional journey, that was difficult to follow as a reader. The science fiction focus has promise, but lacks direction and purpose. There are witch-like creatures like the Lady of the Flowers and Mother Damnable, a white ape, an inspector who are all present, but do not contribute much to advance the story. Maybe I was missing some higher level of symbolism in all of the characters and scenery, but as the reader, I felt lost.

Jane and Maddy vow to find Nathan after his disappearance. They travel throughout England, interviewing fellow "Fetches" (members of the Ariston Day cult), discovering artifacts, and looking for anything that will lead them to Nathan. One of the artifacts found by Jane is Nathan's journal. She reads the entirety of the journal in hopes to find clues of Nathan's disappearance. The journal is clearly used to advance the storyline and I found them incredibly distracting and disingenuous as the reader. All I kept thinking was how no one would ever write like this in their own journal. Entries supposedly written for the character's journal were more like letters to Jane or some other character, and do not make sense for the character to be writing to himself. The clear use of a letter story or journal as a literary device was too obvious and contrived. The journal distracted from the character of Nathan and did not line up with what I expected from the character.

The ending of the story, without revealing spoilers, is also confusing and left with little to no resolve. The story gave me a sense of, "Wait, what just happened!?" I was left with a sense of confusion and annoyance. Overall, I found the novel and storyline lackluster and tedious.

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