Book review · novel

Book review: Woodwalker

Woodwalker, by Emily B. Martin

woodwalker-mm-c-620x999Description : (from Harper Voyager Books )

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hung from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

I first learned about Woodwalker on twitter through a retweet, checked the bio of the author and got really intrigued that a real National Park Service ranger wrote a fantasy book. The cover had a nice YA feel to it (though it’s not really YA, the protagonists are adults, even if they’re not old or anything), with the main characters looking determined with her fist clenched, not looking back but ahead. Plus my family had planned to go take a two days’ vacation on the Pyrenees (the mountains between Spain and France) and I loved the idea to have a setting that would resemble the one from the book I was reading.

IMG_3611.JPGMae knows her way in the forest and the mountains and that’s where I really felt Emily Martin’s experience. Mae is a nice character to follow, but she also has her flaws. For example she often forgets that what is obvious to her isn’t for everyone, which doesn’t make her the best guide.

“I can’t believe how many people outside the mountains have that misconception. We’re not all Woodwalkers. Woodwalker is a title, a rank. We’re stewards, charged with protecting the moutains and directing the rest of the scouts. We command the Wood Guard, the highest branch of the Royal Guard…”

Because that’s what she ends up being: a guide to the three other characters: Mona, Colm and Alren. They happen to be the lost royal family of the Lumen Lake, presumed dead by everyone and looking to take their throne and kingdom back. The story is a lot of Mae and Mona not really getting along and, obviously, learning to know and respect each other. They are very different women but they share some flaws, both proud and stubborn. I sometimes thought that their characterization was a little easy and that they definitely echoed each other but I kinda like those kind of relationship so it didn’t bother me that much. Each character has a different thing that drives them, I really liked Colm but I mostly wish we had seen more of Alren who is the younger brother, the one good with weapons and always ready to fight.

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Woodwalker is classified as fantasy, there are no magic or fantastical elements, it just happens to be set in a world that isn’t ours and that has kings and queens. I didn’t think it lacked anything, the world-building was correct, enough to understand the dynamic of the kingdoms. It also is a really short book, I wouldn’t say it is fast-paced but it reads really fast and I was never bored. If I had had the time I think I could have read it in one setting during a long afternoon (which is my favourite way to read and appreciate a book). But I read it bits by bits and it still was untertaining, I never felt lost when returning to Woodwalker, it was easy to go back into it and never felt like a chore.

“We picked our way across the pathless foothills until close to midnight, risking twisted ankles when the alternative could be twisting at the end of a rope.”

This is one of those book that is so hard to talk about because it was nice reading it, enoyable, and talking about the best thing would be a huge spoiler. On goodreads you have to rate books on 5 stars, so during most of the book I didn’t know if it was going to be a 3 or 4 depending on what was going to happen, mostly because I was having a good time but wasn’t mind blown by anything really. Except near the end when I was suddenly rolling around on my bed, not screaming because there were people in the house but almost, totally shocked by the final twist and I knew it was definitely a 4,5 stars! When the final twist happens, it adds another layer to the story and it becomes a totally different one once you *know*!

Stories with a final twist are my favourite and picking one up without even knowing this is one of them is such a joy and a wonderful surprise! So far this is definitely the best surprise of 2016 for me. As soon as I was finished I wanted to read it again and try to catch some clues on this twist that left me completely stunned.

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After tweeting to Emily B. Martin how much I enjoyed Woodwalker, she told me it was supposed to be a trilogy! But, Woodwalker can be read as a stand-alone, that’s what I thought it was when I bought it and read it! So I’m satisfied with the way it ended and on the other hand I’m really curious to see what Emily has coming next!

Harper Voyager Impulse is a new imprint that is really cheap and of which I really like the format so I’ll definitely preorder the sequel as soon as available (apparently it should be out early next year) and wishes Emily good luck on writing and editing the rest!

Do not hesitate to check the website of Emily B. Martin out, it’s really great!

 

(originally posted: 30th July 2016)

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