Serena’s Review: “Into the Heartless Wood”

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Book: “Into the Heartless Wood” by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Publishing Info: Page Street Kids, January 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.

When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.

Review: I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to this book. On the surface, it has tons of things working in its favor for me specifically. The cover is lovely and the story sounds like the exact sort of fairytale fantasy that I absolutely love. But every time I picked it up, I just couldn’t quite get into it. So, this last December I decided to really give it a go. And, while it still isn’t my favorite read ever, at least this time I did manage to get through the entire thing!

Everyone knows the true sirens live not in the sea but in the woods. Deep in the dark forest, a witch weaves a powerful spell to lure men and women beneath the canopy of trees where she can use her magic to feed their souls to the trees themselves. But it turns out that tree-sirens may want more, at least Seren does. When she meets a human, Owen, she begins to understand what it is to be human and longs for a soul of her own. But darker forces are shifting and the clash between the witch and a powerful king is soon to come.

This book is a tough one for me because of two dueling aspects of the story. One that I love. And one that I hate. Let’s start with what I loved. Obviously, I’m here for all of the fairytale fantasies, and this was just the type that I enjoy. The language was lyrical and of that “old-timey” style that I particularly enjoy. There was also numerous nods to English/Welsh folklore that very much reminded me of Juliet Marillier’s work. And really, anything that can be compared to one of my favorite authors has to be good. And yet, here I am giving a middling review to this book. Well, that comes down to what my problem was with the story. Notably, our two main characters and their romance.

Sadly, this was a hardcore instalove story. I mean, these two characters pretty much fall immediately in full-on love by page 60 (unsurprisingly enough, this is about where I fell-off in my reading in previous attempts). For me, instalove like this immediately sucks all of the interest out of the romance of the story. There’s no where for this relationship to go if it starts out at 100% milk. This makes the romance itself read very bland and boring, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that both main character also felt rather flat and uninteresting. I did like that their roles were somewhat reversed, with the heroine coming from a villainous role and the hero having a softer, more open personality.

So, there you have it, a book made of two equally powerful sides of my preference-coin. Love the fairytale story and lyrical quality of writing. Really hated the instalove romance and flat main characters. For those who are less annoyed by instalove, this could be a real win of a story. But sadly, it was enough to bump this one down a few points in my own rating.

Rating 7: Really loved parts of it, really disliked others, so take from that what you will!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Into the Heartless Wood” is on these Goodreads lists: Books To Read In Winter and Magical Forest.

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