Book: “The Will and the Wilds” by Charlie N. Holmberg
Publication Info: 47North, January 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley
Book Description: Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.
Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.
Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.
Review: I read “The Paper Magician” by this author a few years back. It was a simple, straight-forward, enjoyable little fantasy story that I quite enjoyed (though I haven’t gotten around to reading any of the other books in the series). But when I came across this title by the same author, I was excited to see what looked like a new fairytale story. It’s always refreshing to find something that isn’t a retelling and the element involving the exchange of souls between the main characters was intriguing.
Enna has always yearned to study mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. But they are as dangerous as they are mysterious, so much of her time is spent instead on warding her home against them in an attempt to protect her and her father from the viscous death her mother suffered when Enna was just a baby. Soon enough, however, she finds herself tangled up with a mysting named Maekallus, a powerful being who steals the soul with a kiss. Now, entwined in a deal that is dooming them both, Enna and Maekallus must unravel the secrets of an enchanted stone Enna’s father stole from the mystings long ago and that may be more powerful than Enna ever imagined.
Like “The Paper Magician,” this was another sweet, little story. There wasn’t anything particularly challenging or unique about the story itself. The world-building was pretty straight-forward. And the characters were all likable. Putting it all together it sounds like I’m criticizing the book for being bland, but I think that a story such as this has just a much a place on most readers’ shelves as even the most complex and deep stories do. While I may not have found myself blown away by any aspect of it, the entire experience of the story was like sinking into a nice warm bath with some low level candles flickering. It was comfortable and safe, something that is even easier to appreciate in times such as this when frankly all I want to do is re-read comfort books all day long.
The most intriguing part of this story was around the idea of the soul and what it provides to those who possess it. Enna, a human girl, naturally goes about life never questioning the role her soul plays in her existence. But when she meets Maekallus and enters into a sort of transactional agreement with him that sees her slowly losing pieces of her soul, we begin to see what it costs her. And, conversely, what Maekallus lacked before gaining pieces bit by bit. The romance between the two is accordingly a slow burn love story.
I will say that there were points in the middle of the book where the plot began to feel a bit repetitive and meandering. There isn’t a whole lot of fast-paced action in this story, and some of the conflicts, such as they are, feel relatively low stakes and don’t add much tension to the proceedings. The main plot line, of course, has some action to it. But as that takes part mostly in the beginning and end of the book, there are some side quests in the middle that don’t seem to add a lot. I also felt like the main confrontation at the end of the book was fairly anticlimactic, all things considered.
But, like I said, the love story was sweet and our two main characters were interesting enough. If one is looking for a quick fairytale fantasy, this is a good go-to. But if you’re looking for anything of the more “epic” or grand variety, this isn’t going to do the trick. It’s definitely a “right mood” kind of book, and I think I was in it when I read it. Objectively, I think it was probably a bit slower and less developed than it could be, though.
Rating 7: A nice little story, but not one that is pushing any sort of boundaries.
“The Will and the Wilds” isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists, but it is on “slow-burn romance.”
Find “The Will and the Wilds” at your library using WorldCat!