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Book Review: The Woods

Table of Contents

“Old loyalties. New love.
And a secret more dangerous than any monster.

Long ago, a sorcerer cast a curse that filled the woods around Red’s village with wolves. The village put up a wall to protect its people and only the Huntsmen—an army of ax-wielding warriors led by Red’s legendary Gran—are allowed outside.

Red is no legend. She lives trapped. Until a brutal attack leaves Gran on the edge of death. To save her, Red must brave the Woods alone.

The beasts track her every step, driving her deep into the shadows, where she discovers a secret, horrifying truth.

A wolf, Timber, promises Red safe passage home if she helps him reveal the secret and break the ancient curse that afflicts the Woods. Red’s every instinct screams not to trust him. But as old loyalties are called into question and new love threatens to break open her heart, Red faces a choice that will determine the fate of all those who live in the Woods.

For she never expected she could love a beast.”

Title: The Woods

Series: Standalone

Author: Em McDermott

Page Count: 455

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.25/5.0

Date Read: March 16th, 2024

My thirty-fifth read from my personal SPFBO-9 list was The Woods by Em McDermott. I don’t often do this but if I’m being honest this was initially added to this list strictly on the cover art. It wasn’t until recently when I was figuring out where to work this read in that I found out that it was a retelling of the classic Red Riding Hood story. I don’t know how much stock I’d put into that but there are some aspects sprinkled here and there with the characters and the world.
This read was also my March pick for the Domains Reading Challenge put together by Trudie Skies as well. It’s representing a story taking place within a forest. That it certainly does as the entire story takes place within the woods. Whether that in the Big Village within the woods or what is often referred to as the deep woods which seems more of an unknown.
Other than a retelling of the classic Red Riding Hood, I can’t help but share my thoughts that I felt this had some strong influences from the show True Blood (minus the vampires). That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I really enjoyed that series for years as well.
The pacing was quick and smooth. I realized early on that I was flying through words and pages whenever I got a chance to sit down and read some more of The Woods. We do have quite a few characters being introduced in this book but I didn’t have any trouble with names of these characters or locations. I think each character was unique enough to stand out as the number of them piled up. I really think Em’s prose with this book fit me very well. It really was a pleasure to read.
The world building was a lot of fun as well. Even though we don’t have what seems like an expansive geographical area where this story takes place, the description of the woods, the village, the pack camp and grandmother’s house were all well done. Even the tone was set nicely with just how ominous the woods seem early on and then how that feeling can change to it’s characters overtime where there seems to be other bigger fears. The woods are large enough where getting to some areas take a week or more on foot or by horse so it’s still a good size amount of land to house this story.
The character development was also nicely done. We had some solid character arcs to be followed with some nice twists and turns along the way. Obviously Red’s arc was fun to see unfold but also Timber, Gran and some others were also both entertaining and surprising at times. There are some good faction and point of view growths in The Woods and even some nice underlying themes regarding humanity in general if you take a step back and think.
I’ll finish once again mentioning how surprised I was on the amount of fun I had reading this one. I think anyone looking for a quick easy fantasy read could have fun as well. I would just temper any expectations on how close this may be to the classic Red Riding Hood.

World Building 4/5
Pacing 4.5/5
Character Development 4/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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