ARC Review: The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N Holmberg

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book to review, and I really enjoyed it. I’m a fan of the author (you can read my reviews of the first two Numina books here and here), but this book wasn’t as dark as I was expecting. I’m not sure what it’s being billed as, but I’d comfortably call this book YA. Good YA though, it doesn’t condescend to its readers.

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I wish Enna wasn’t wearing a dress in this, but I do appreciate the minimal fairytale vibe of the cover

A spellbinding story of truce and trickery from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician series.

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.

This book started off slow for me, Enna wasn’t fleshed out as much as I’d like and while I liked Maekallus (of course), he also lacked a backstory for the majority of the book. The world created is enjoyable but limited, but I still found myself intrigued by the nuances of this world. The folklorish protections and attitudes intrigued me, as did the mentions of a previously averted war.

Enna’s father was a good source of motivation and conflict, though he did seem conveniently absent for a majority of the book. If the series or world were to be expanded I’d appreciate learning more of Enna’s backstory and that of her family to give context to her character and choices.

The central conflict of the book begins quite early on, with clear motivating factors from that point onwards. Problems are introduced and resolved quite abruptly, and I almost wish problems lingered for a little to seem appropriately heavy—not to the point of angst, but just to make threats seem more ‘real’.

Tennith and his interactions with Enna were good to read, and though I don’t like every part of them, I appreciate the role he played in the novel. Maekallus’s reaction to him (without giving too much away) was also one of the highlights of the book to me, and really got me on board with the storyline1. The plot of The Will and the Wilds, while a little simpler than I’m used to, was solid and well-paced, with some amazing imagery and great poetic language.

As far as I know, this book is a standalone, but I think there are plenty of threads that could be explored in future books. That’s not to say that the ending is inconclusive, it isn’t, but I’d appreciate learning more about the world and certain events and characters.

Oddly enough this book reminds me a little of the Disney movie Tangled, for whatever reason Maekallus and Flynn Rider just seem similar to me. The fairy-tale parallels and intense emotions are also vaguely similar to Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, though the content is nowhere near as dark or explicit. Fans of VE Schwab’s Shades of Magic series may also enjoy this book, and I think it could also be a good fit for those who enjoy Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children novels.

The Will and the Wilds releases on January 21st, and I will also have an interview with Charlie N Holmberg available on that date.

 

1I know that’s vague, but spoilers

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