Whisperwood | Alex Woddroe

Today, I am having a look at Whisperwood by Alex Woodroe, published by Flame Tree Press, an atmospheric dark fantasy full of Rumanian folklore and monsters.

A journey into the wild woods with a character who just needs a break—and the terrible things that stare back at her.

When curious nomad Anna hears about Whisperwood, a town that’s not on any maps, that nobody goes to, and nobody comes from, she sees an opportunity to hide from her violent witch-hunting ex.

But not everything is peaceful in the isolated community. A vanishing town, a gruesome funeral rite, an emergency field surgery—these surprises and more test Anna's resolve.

Prevented from leaving the frontier settlement by folk magic she doesn’t understand, Anna lends helping hands everywhere she can, but quickly finds that investigating the forest too closely could end up being the last thing she does.

Whisperwood is the debut novel from Alex Woodrow.

It tells the story of Anna, a woman who in a bid to outrun her traumatic past runs to the arse end of the arse end of anywhere civilised.

In a bid to find somewhere to belong, she travels to the forbidding village of Whisperwood. A village that holds dark secrets and is ruled by superstition.

As soon as she enters the village, she comes across the unwelcoming villagers. Electing to stay overnight, she finds herself haunted by the evil of her past. However, it soon becomes clear that she cannot leave. Trapped, she attempts to find her place in the village. Soon she begins to uncover the strange occurrences as inexplicable events lead her to find the truth of the Whispers that live in the dark forest that surrounds Whisperwood.

Whisperwood is a strange beast, it's kind of a mix of The Wicker Man, Annihilation and Grimm's fairytales.

I quite liked Whisperwood, but I did find it to be a mixed bag of a book, but this didn't really hamper my enjoyment of it.

As a writer, I think Alex Woodrow is really good. She brought to the table originality in spades. I loved the inclusion of Romanian folklore and the different types of creatures that inhabit the world. She brings them to life so well.

Throughout the book, Alex Woodrow peppers the book with some fantastic bits of prose, like this one when she is describing the essence of what the Whispers are

Whispers come and look for the angry bits of soul left in the body. They draw them out and make Pricolici. Whether moving or still, they are made of unfinished tasks. They alter the natural order of the world.”

The characters in the book are gnerally good especially Anna. However, I think it is the side characters of the story that, for me, hampered the tale that Alex Woodrow was weaving. I just felt there were too many of them and none really stood out against the tide, except for the most unlikeliest character, the matriarchal Mrs Crosman, who rules the village with a heavy dose of steel and vitriol.

However, that aside, I really liked the character of Anna. She's snarky, pragmatic and incredibly strong. In addition to that, despite what she has gone through, she has a willingness to trust, and you can see that she just wants to belong. Although, why she wants to belong in Whisperwood is a bit beyond me, they are certainly not the friendliest of bunches.

The book is strongest when the descriptions of the creatures come to the fore, especially when we enter the third act of the book. This is when Anna and a party of villagers enter the forest in order to find a list member of Whisperwood. For me, the book comes alive in this third act and that is when the magic of the story fizzes off the page. The forest around Whisperwood is alive and dangerous, and Alice Woodroe convincingly brings the weird and wonderful beings alive. 

Whisperwood is a strong debut that makes me want to read more from Alex Woodroe, and I definitely cannot wait to see what she brings in the future, and I hope it revolves around the Romanian folklore which was captivating.


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