Book Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw (ARC)

Winterwood

Author: Shea Ernshaw

Publication Date: 05 November 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

I had the pleasure of reading The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw last year, and the story absolutely blew me away. When I found out about Winterwood, I could not wait for the opportunity to dive into another one of her richly imagined and beautifully written tales.

Nora Walker comes from a long line of Walker women who have always lived near the dark and mysterious Wicker Woods as well as its surrounding lake. The Walker women are rumored to be witches. Only Nora and her family knows of the nightshades…the shadow that is responsible for their magical abilities. The nightshades have always presented themselves in the Walker women, but Nora doesn’t seem to have the great powers that her ancestors did, but she is able to retrieve lost things.

Every full moon, Nora is able to enter the Wicker Woods to retrieve lost items (during the full moon, the Wicker Woods sleep…any other time, it is awake and you won’t make it out alive). On one of her trips, Nora finds a boy who is nearly frozen to death. It is Oliver Huntsman, the boy who went missing from the camp for wayward boys across the lake. Nora decides return Oliver to camp after nursing him back to health, but his apprehension to return makes her question if she can trust him. Nora is determined to figure out what Oliver is hiding as well as the uncover the secrets that the boys at camp don’t want uncovered.

I am still amazed at how beautiful and effortless, Shea Ernshaw’s words flow off of the page. After reading the first chapter, I was immediately gripped by the atmospheric setting. While Nora was in the Wicker Woods, its dark and insidious nature was palpable, which definitely quickened my heartbeat. Each one of the scenes that were presented with such clarity that I felt that I was trapped in the snow storm alongside Nora and Oliver. Additionally, Ernshaw transports you into the minds of both Nora and Oliver allowing you to feel their emotions alongside them. It was truly remarkable.

I loved the romance between Nora and Oliver. It’s hard to describe because it’s not a love at first sight or even a gradual sort of love. Both of them are outsiders and are trying to find their place in a confusing and isolating world, but neither one of them has managed to prior to their meeting. I loved watching their characters grow to protect one another even when others are set out to destroy them.

As far as the plot goes, there is a plot line that I was able to predict, however, I didn’t think that guessing it detracted from the storyline. Instead, it made me even more invested into understanding this beautiful world that was created and how everything fit together in the end.

Overall, if you love atmospheric reads filled with beautiful imagery and characters that pull at your heart strings, definitely pick this one up. I know that spooky season is technically over, but this is the perfect read to curl up to under a warm blanket as it transports you to a dark, snow filled abyss with magic, mystery, secrets, and betrayal.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing an ARC for review. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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