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4.3 out of 5
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  • Loved it!

    Amazing story, the writing is beautiful and I absolutely love the universe.

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  • Great Atmosphere, Stilted Dialogue

    This is Shea Ernshaw's sophomore release, following The Wicked Deep last year. I wasn't a huge fan of Wicked Deep but I thought it had potential. I was hoping Winterwood would have taken Ernshaw's writing one step further. In some ways it has, unfortunately we are still subject to wooden characters whose dialogue is painful and poor descriptions of hypothermia. I don't know why she keeps using it given she obviously doesn't understand how hypothermia works. Setting In Wildwood we meet Nora, a witch of sorts, who lives in a forest on a mountain near a camp for troubled boys (mostly teens). So naturally she will be the only girl amoungst many boys. But at least it makes sense here and isn't just by chance or luck like in many other YA/Teen novels. Nearby is a large lake that plays an important part to the overall story. If you're suddenly thinking Friday the 13th with Jason Voorhees you get the isolation, seclusion, and danger of a lake near a camp in the forest. Snow and Hypothermia I don't know why Ernshaw has used hypothermia (especially water induced) in both her books; as she doesn't seem to understand how it works. First up, almost no one ever 'wakes up' after they have fallen asleep and are hypothermic. Magical intervention aside. So it would be nice if cold is being used to 'knock' our characters out that there is a sense of why/how they woke. Second, it is extremely unlikely that anyone would survive falling into a frozen lake if they did not get immediately pulled out, and immediate attention to slowly warm them up. Think, all wet clothing removed, rubbing skin, immersion in lukewarm (or even cold) water to bring body temperature up, etc. It really bugs me when authors use well-known medical injuries poorly. And so I don't know why Ernshaw seems to have a fascination with snow and the cold, but this Canadian (who knows the cold very well) would really appreciate the descriptions being more accurate. Plot and Dialogue As with The Wicked Deep, there is a great creepy, dark story here. A legacy of misunderstood magic, an area of the forest no one enters, genetic magical ability, and more. And this plot would work, even if it's similar to many other stories, if only our characters didn't seem to break up the well written moody and creepy descriptions. Both the setting and plot are good. Right up to the point our teenagers open their mouths and say something stilted, stupid, or ridiculous. Ernshaw seems to have real issues with developing dialogue for her characters that doesn't feel forced. It's as though she wishes no one needed to speak and we could just infer what was happening from descriptions. Sadly that is not the case. Overall If the dialogue and character development were improved upon then Winterwood would be a solid 4 stars. Sadly because it is not I can barely justify the 3 stars I've given it. If Ernshaw can really up her game with her characters and dialogue she might be able to crack further into the over-saturated YA fantasy genre. But as it stands now she is on the edge and barely hanging on. I hope her third novel comes out stronger. I will leave you with the most amusing quote from the book; which had me considering who is more madder, the Hatter or Jekyll. I think Jekyll. "A person can go mad in these woods. Hatter mad." Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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