Anything promising exciting dark sci-fantasy with creepy woods and small-town intrigue gets my attention just like that.
One of my all-time favorite tropes will forever be haunted trees, and WHAT THE WOODS KEEP had a bunch of haunted trees, and then some.
WtWK’s concept of sci-fantasy is structured extremely well. The premise is heavily rooted in all things physics and interdimensionality, which, for me, is a solid HELL YES. Dark fantasy with a nerdy twist is my aesthetic, you guys. Our MC, Hayden, references all the supernatural in a scientific mindset, and that, I believe, is enough by itself to make the experience of WTWK unique. Twisting well-known physics rules to suit the fantastical and freaky is a massive show of creative talent, not to mention being so super fun to read.
Hayden’s voice is distinct and enjoyable. Her observations are wry and kinda sardonic and all-around funny. She’s not Sassy and Snarky™️, but believably so. I will admit that her well-would-you-look-at-that attitude did rub me the wrong way at times, especially when all hell breaks loose (I need some emotional spectrum, you know, and Hayden lacked a “panic” setting), but overall? I like her. I do.
The mystery of Promise, Colorado, allowed the quirky little town to be character in and of itself, which, again, is mightily pleasing. I love weird creepy cities. I love em. That, combined with another favorite trope of mine (the aforementioned creepy woods) gave this so much of a sinister vibe, and that alone makes the pages fly by quickly. This isn’t a small book, by any stretch, so the undercurrent of anticipation carried through to the end and sufficiently accelerated the pace.
But why did you knock some stars off the rating, Nina-Tala? you ask. Fair enough. Look, the problem for me here is very similar to my issue with TO KILL A KINGDOM by Alexandra Christo: SO much epic buildup, SO many hella cool plot threads … and a disappointing fallout. The end scenes, of both these books, was a solid meh. It read sloppy. The author could’ve taken it Somewhere, you know? She had the potential to be extraordinary and absolutely nail the ending, but it felt like she kinda bit off more than she could chew. The ending was rife with unresolved plot threads and deus ex machina, and i was rife with disappointed tears (please pretend that’s the right expression). Just: WHY.
But all in all? Super fun. Super freaky. It’s the journey, not the destination, and whatnot. Have fun with this. It’s extraordinarily entertaining and sufficiently creepy.
Thanks to Macmillan for the ARC!