THE FOREST OF STOLEN GIRLS kind of has an Enola Holmes vibe to it, with the whole young lady detective thing. Hwani, the heroine, is looking into her father's disappearance while investigating a case that ended up haunting their entire family. A case involving a ghostly man in a white mask, missing girls, and a sinister forest.
The author, June Hur, explores many interesting and complex themes in this book. I think my favorite is sisterhood and redemption. Maewol, Hwani's younger sister, has been living with a wise woman during all this time and has become estranged from Hwani. As the two of them become embroiled in the mystery, they end up growing closer and understanding one another in a way that they really couldn't while competing for their father's love.
I do think that the book had a somewhat removed tone that made it difficult to become emotionally invested in the characters. It didn't really feel like I knew Hwani until the very end of the book. She was just kind of an impersonal vehicle driving the story along. The writing was very clean and the story was interesting and it was strongest when there were real emotional stakes. But at other times, reading this book was gruelingly slow and the uneven pacing made it feel like it was a debut work.
That said, I did end up liking THE FOREST OF STOLEN GIRLS. The afterword is also worth reading too, as the author talks about her historical inspirations for writing this work. The heroine is strong and capable and there's no romance; it's literally just about family and independence, which is kind of refreshing in books written for an age group that tend to be filled with unnecessary romantic subplots. Even though the pacing is uneven, the ending was great and there were some genuinely creepy moments that gave me chills and kept me turning the pages, wondering how everything would turn out.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars