Last Week on Inked Brownies

Review: The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill


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? 10914235_820127088058458_964867804_n.jpg


“Dare you follow your dreams?


The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.


Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.


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?


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._UC_Zepplin_Tower.jpg

***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:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
The Book Depository

About Anne (231 Articles)
Dutch book reviewer who reviews in English. Grammar nazis beware!! I like brownies. And chamomile tea.

45 Comments on Review: The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill

  1. Anne, your reviews just keep getting better. This is a fantastic review and thoroughly intrigued me so I am now requesting a copy. I do like a slow roast, so I do! Plus you make the characters sound wonderful!

    I love that you could not hold yourself back from mentioning ‘sausage’ and ‘wood’ 😀

    I do have a question though… I’ve seen it on your blog before and someone else’s as wlel… sorry for being daft, but what is–> TL; DR: ??? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ooh yes to slowly roasted dark fantasy with rich world building- sounds good enough to eat (ahem) I mean, read 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an awaeome review Anne! So well done 😊 The book sounds like something I would really enjoy. I am a fan, I MEAN FAN of weid fantasy! Also “brownie” points for the zeppelin screenshot 😉 Seriously, I loved reading this review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! I haven’t heard of the book before, but judging from your review I it doesn’t sound like it deserves that negative criticism. I’m gonna see about adding this to my tbr 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 🙂 Well, I can understand if people are expecting an action packed novel and it isn’t. And then ends up being almost 500 pages long…it’s bound to disappoint them! People just don’t have any patience anymore these days tuts :).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. rashthedoctor // 16/09/2016 at 15:33 // Reply

    First – that’s a fantastic review .

    second – the world you described just sounds to me like the “nevernever” from Dresden Files … apart from the Dragon (but hey i haven’t finished all the books yet so there maybe those in nevernever as well) . So I’m not sure about the world building .

    Third – I just can’t stop thinking “man it’d be awesome to grow up in a bookshop”

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1.Thank you!! ❤
      2.OOh, yet another reason to read the series!
      3.I know right! Or maybe you’ll get immune to the power of books after being exposed to it constantly…yeah, no way, it would be awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Are sausages making guest appearances in all posts now? Cos me likey! 😂
    It does not sound like a book I’d choose, but I want to read it. What is this magic??? But I can’t click on the link, my 56% ratio won’t allow me to get another book xD

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m going to make it my signature XD. Hahaha, it’s throws ball of glitter in the air and then gets glitter in eye. Haha! Yeah, you’re on a chronic book ban anyways missy ;).


  7. Not sure if I’d request it, but as always, this is a very entertaining review. Love the gifs. A slow roasted fairytale on acid. Lol 😂 Ha! They need to quote you for the press release. 🙂 Whether you love or hate a book you always make me laugh. Good job! 😜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hot damn, this comment ended up in my spam folder again! But thank you, thank you! Haha! I’m afraid I’ll never be quoted for a press release because it’s not the typical poetic one-liner stuff they’re looking for ;). I’m glad to hear I’m spreading some happiness across the blogging realm XD. It’s one of the main tasks of being the Queen of Sausages!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great review, really good and the highest of praise for the slow roast burnt sausage bit. Is it going to be like Where’s wally from now on with your reviews but instead of a wally picture we have to find the word sausage! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Awesome review 😀 My problem with Goodreads is that I trust too much the rating and that sometimes has stopped me from buying books 😦 Maybe I shouldn’t pay so much attention to that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gracias! 😉 Yes, same here. If something has a general rating of lower than 3.2ish, I can’t be arsed to look at it anymore. Which is why I try to not look at it at all before choosing a book :).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Zainab Sheikh // 16/09/2016 at 20:09 // Reply

    Mystery and Fairytale?
    Awesome review. But, I hate slow-paced books too so I’m not so sure about reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oooh this sounds fabulous! I enjoy weird stories, so this sounds perfect for me. I don’t mind slower pace sometimes, if it pays off in the end. The concept sounds magical, and I definitely think I need this in my life. Also you made me laugh with ‘Nobody likes a dehydrated burnt sausage!’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Another awesome review! This book sounds super interesting! And I kinda have a thing where if other people don’t like a book I’m all “YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.” and then try it for myself.
    Thank you for not forgetting the sausage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mercay bowcoo! 😉 Hahaha, yeah, I know what you mean. YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT I LIKE!! You’re welcome, it just came out naturally :’)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. What a wonderful review! I was sad it was over. I see you still have sausages on the brain. Ha ha. It sounds like a book I would love because I love weird. I am running off to Goodreads right now to tbr it and put it on my Amazon wishlist, so they will tell me if/when the ebook goes on special. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, that’s the best compliment I’ve ever had from someone maybe :D. Or it’s in the top #3 at least! ❤ Glad I sharted it with you 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  14. katelynnhillier // 18/10/2016 at 23:35 // Reply

    “People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind”
    How disappointing would that be? You’re transported to the LAND OF FAIRY TALES which is AWESOME, except – you’re naked.
    If you didn’t die from a troll or a dragon or a witch, you’d probably die of embarrassment.
    That said, I still want to read this and would go full-on Tarzan if I was transported to the Beginning Woods.
    OMG ZEPPELINS! I can still never figure out which zeppelin goes where if I come up that hill from the other side. Poor noob me usually ends up rushing onto the zeppelin just about to leave and ends up NOT in Orgrimmar. So upsetting…
    … almost as upsetting as showing up naked where there are REAL Prince Charmings. Yikes!
    I’m sold. This sounds amazing. I love a slow-roasting fantasy with great world building. The fact that this is no where in Canada only makes me want it more…! ༼ つ ಥ_ಥ ༽つ
    (yuss – the nipple emoji is BACK!!! :D)


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