I was instantly sold on this novella the moment I heard about it – creepy English folklore and queer romance is basically my ideal read. I was thrilled to be approved for it on NetGalley, and I already know I’m going to need a hard copy!
Book: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided free of charge via NetGalley. All opinions my own.
The atmosphere in this story is phenomenal. I don’t know how Emily Tesh has managed it, but she somehow conjures that feeling of utter safety and beauty of being in a forest, and also that feeling of threat and dread and something lurking beyond your sight. This is a book that would fit perfectly anywhere in the canon of English forest folktales – it’s dark, and creepy, and joyous, and full of hidden meaning. It’s magic, but only just enough to make you wonder the next time you go for a walk. It feels like a glimpse into a forgotten world.
The characters, too, seem to have stepped right out of folklore, and yet shine in their uniqueness. Tobias, who lives alone in the woods, guarding his domain from natural and supernatural harm, is one of the most real characters I’ve read in a long time. He’s good and kind and caring, but also grumpy and isolated and a little outdated. I loved him. He felt like the embodiment of the forest, but he also felt distinctly human (somewhere deep in there). I also really enjoyed Henry Silver – his love of collecting folklore combined with his naivety about what things really meant instantly endeared him to me. I thought these two were so good for each other, and I appreciated that somehow their romance felt slow-burn and almost incidental to the story, despite the short length of the book.
And that’s the thing. This is a short novella, but it’s so utterly all-consuming that it felt like a dream, where time matters very little and the world just flows as you need it to. I felt like I’d spent years with these characters just inside 120 pages. I can see myself returning to this story for a reread whenever I feel the need to reconnect with a bit of magic, because it somehow encapsulates everything I’ve always loved about English ballads and forest tales. When I put the book down, I was genuinely kind of angry that I hadn’t written this myself, because it just hit something in my heart. It’s perfect.
Obviously, it gets five out of five cats. How could it not?!