THE WILL AND THE WILDS took me a while to read because it's a slow and odd book that, despite its length, builds up to its climax slowly. I ended up liking it because it reminded me a lot of the fairytale stories I read as a kid by authors with triple-barreled names like as Diana Wynne Jones and Margaret Peterson Haddix and Gail Carson Levine and Vivian Vande Velde, but I already know that some readers probably aren't going to like it precisely because it is so slow and non-confrontational. Epic, fast-paced fantasy this is not.
Enna lives on the edge of the wildwood, which is, itself, only a stone's throw away from the monster world, a place called the Deep, which seems to be a sort of Unseelie faerie land where creatures that are part demon and part fae, called Mystings, come and go at their leisure. Sightings of them are rare-- in part because many of them are deadly-- but Enna's grandmother kept a journal of them and Enna uses that info to survive.
She lives with her father, a man who fought the mystings and lived, escaping with a rare and odd jewel that she wears around her wrist because it warns her when mystings are near. But his escape cost him his sanity, and now he appears to be suffering from dementia, living halfway in the past every day of his life. It's an odd life, and Enna is regarded with suspicion by the villagers for being a witch. All that changes when mysting visitations become more frequent, and she is forced to enlist the help of a being named Maekellus.
Her deal with him goes awry and the pact they made becomes a curse, binding the two of them together. If they can't break the curse, the two of them will perish, and kissing him to ease the curse will steal her soul. It seems like the two of them might be doomed, especially when she starts to fall for the magical man with the unicorn horn and the cloven feet who seems like he might be the devil himself. But will he end up proving to be her greatest ally-- or her destruction? Only time will tell, and time itself is running out. (Seriously, why haven't I been hired on as a blurb writer, yet?)
As I said before, I loved the dark fairytale elements of this book and any time you throw in a dangerous man who could be the heroine's destruction, I melt like butter. It's even better that he's a redhead, because apparently I have a thing for those. I also really liked the idea of the Deep-- really, the author spent way too much time in that creepy world, I wanted more-- and the mystings. I could have learned way more about them and their world and their creepy powers, which actually brings me to my biggest complaint: the ending was so anticlimactic. I understand why the author did it and I do think there is strength in grace, but the book seemed to be building to something epic and I kept holding my breath, wondering how something so big was going to go down in such a small amount of pages... and yeah, it turns out it wasn't going to. Not saying any more on the subject, but boo.
Also, at the end of the book is a piece of what looks like handwritten sheet music called "Enna's Wildwood." Obviously, I whipped out my flute (heh) and played it to see what it would sound like. It sounded a lot like creepy video game music that you'd hear in an enchanted forest in one of the Mana or Zelda games. I was kind of into it. So that was fun. If you can read sheet music, give it a try!
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
3.5 out of 5 stars