Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published September 1st, 2016 by Pushkin Children’s Books
I read some of the reviews on Goodreads and they weren’t all too positive, sadly. That didn’t stop me from requesting it (obviously) because hello, woods? Mystery? Fairytale?
“Dare you follow your dreams?
A MYSTERY NO ONE CAN SOLVE
The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.
A BABY NO ONE WANTED
Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.
A SECRET THAT COULD SAVE THE FUTURE
To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.
But can he bear the truth – or will it destroy him?
A STORY THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER WORLD
Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…“
The negative criticism mostly focusses on the slow pace. Some people found the story boring and/or confusing.
Yes, it’s quite a hefty tome with almost 500 pages. Yes, we don’t get dropped into one action scene after the other. But my opinion here is that you can look at it as a slow roast: not many people have the patience for it, but if you do, you’ll end up with a much nicer juicier and more tender piece of meat. Nobody likes a dehydrated burnt sausage!
As for the confusing part, yes, this is a weird story and requires your imagination to run like a steam locomotive on full speed, but isn’t that why we like to read in the first place? Give me weird any day! Weird is good. Weird is awesome.
So the story huh? Max has been abandoned in a bookshop as a baby. Instead of looking like any other baby, he has spindly legs, pointy ears and a big row of sharp teeth. Because of this, finding a pair of foster parents for him proves to be a real challenge.
When Max grows up, he’s very much aware of being an orphan and wants to find his real ‘forever’ parents no matter what. Meanwhile, the vanishings keep getting worse and worse and even the most brilliant scientists don’t know what’s causing them, let alone how it can be fixed. Max thinks there’s a correlation between finding his parents and putting an end to the vanishings.
In an attempt to trigger his earliest memories, he starts reading. A LOT. Storybook after storybook. In the hope of finding his own story hidden in there somewhere.
But what if all the stories somehow actually happened? This is where Max finds out about The Beginning Woods.
The Beginning Woods (all puns left aside here) is like a parallel world to the one we know. It’s the world where all the stories come from. Where the witches live, and the dragons, and basically all the other typical fairytale characters. Yet there’s nothing typical about these characters because everything is just a tat bit off. Fairytales on acid, if you will. The Alice in Wonderland comparison is easily made, but The Beginning Woods is a lot more realistic than Wonderland. The geography in the Woods, for example, is almost the same as in our own puny world.
What made me give this book four brownies?
Its rich worldbuilding, for one. The possibilities are endless. There are massive dragons (which aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed), fairies, evil witches, dragon hunters, ghosts (who prefer to be called ‘cold people’), wizards and just ‘plain’ forest folk.
It’s not a Middle-Grade story; it’s way too dark for that. With its 15-year-old (ish) protagonist and fairy tale elements, it’s dark YA mostly but certainly also suitable for fans of the regular Fantasy genre.
There are some odd dialogue sections which take a bit of getting used to and would annoy me to no end in other books, but it somehow works here. I even had to chuckle out loud a couple of times because of it.
Some of the characters were pretty funny. There’s a wind giant who has to remove all of his clothing before blowing or he will rip his clothes apart. The evil witch is a horrible person, yet I still had to laugh at some of the things she said.
I’ve been struggling between rating it with four and four and a half brownies, and ended up going with four. It was a very nice read, but Max was getting on my nerves quite a few times, plus, it could’ve probably been trimmed down by fifty pages or so.
One of the evil characters was clearly inspired by Hitler, which makes no sense storywise, yet made sense anyhow. Yeah, go figure!
Lots of books, an evil witch, gory cruelty, fairytales, a parallel (story) world. Dark woods, ghosts, crazy people. Travelling by massive hot air balloons (aka zeppelins) from city to city, fueled by wind giants.
***When I checked Amazon in order to add the links below, I saw only three USED copies were available. And it has one review!! That is just fucking ridiculous. So I encourage you all to, if this book sounds intriguing to you in any way, request an ARC of this book HERE, or (even better) buy a copy and leave a review once you’ve read it. I really think it deserves more than this.***
A big thank you to Pushkin Children’s Books for providing me with a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion!
Links to the book: