The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

(Last Updated On: September 15, 2019)

If you are looking for a beautifully written, lyrically poetic tale that reads like a lucid dream, then The Waking Forest is for you!

About the Book

Publisher: Delacorte  |  Release Date: March 12, 2019  |  Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  |  Format: Hardcover  |  Source: Publisher via NetGalley

The Waking Forest coverThe waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

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My Review

Narrative style: first & third personPerspective(s): dual (The Witch {third}, Rhea)

Spooky Season is upon us my friends, and The Waking Forest is a beautifully written fantasy debut that is sure to get you in the mood! Wees weaved fairy tales, dreams, and nightmares into a lyrical tale that flows on the page and takes on a life of its own.

“What waits for a kiss that does not come? What dreams and dreams until it comes undone?”

This is one of the most atmospheric books I have read in awhile. Wees’ writing is beautiful and descriptive, and I almost feel like I am in a fever dream while reading it (much like when I read Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton – another witchy book I recommend).

This book is beautiful but requires some patience. The book has dual points-of-view and stylistically are night and day from one another. The Witch’s narrative is more lyrical and is in third person, whereas Rhea’s perspective is in first person and the prose is less purple (but still beautiful). There are two very different stories being told and I didn’t really settle into the narrative until things started weaving together around the halfway point. I have a lot of “wtf is going on?” notes; I encourage you to just read the book and trust things will slide into focus.

“I can think of nothing more terrifying than a dream like this, which is only in your heart and cannot hurt you, until it suddenly reaches out and touches you.”

There’s a lot I would like to say about the plot itself and how much I enjoyed it once it came together, but I really think it is best for you to go in as blind as possible on this one. As someone who oftentimes struggles with multiple POVs, I found the alternating perspectives to work here and the pacing of the story is done well.

The story is beautiful and reads like a lucid dream but none of the characters never really felt real to me. There are moments of sisterhood and just daily life with the family that was heartwarming, but they never felt like real people; the story itself was what I was invested in and drove the narrative forward for me. And I suppose that is the point for a magical, ephemeral read. I loved the anxiety rep in this book and how supportive the family is of their mental struggles. It was also refreshing to have a young adult fantasy story where the parents are present for once, and there is a f/f side relationship mentioned near the end.

“All things end, eventually. Even the very best stories. And the worst of them too.”

This is a book that I think will get better with re-reads. I spent the first half of this book utterly confused and wonder how much more I will enjoy it now that I know the ending. The story is beautiful and Wees is definitely an author to watch as I am sure she will continue to write atmospheric and lyrical stories. I don’t think the writing style will be for everyone, but for those of you who love poetic writing, this debut is a great fall read to get you in the spooky mood.

Content warnings: anxiety, dead body, death, gore, grief, hallucinations
Representation: anxiety, f/f relationship

 Interview with Alyssa Wees Novel19 Class

Many thanks to Delacorte for sending me an eARC via Netgalley for my honest review (I read my pre-ordered hardback)!

What about you: do you enjoy deeply lyrical prose in fantasy writing? Do you think you will pick up The Waking Forest?

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Mere

    September 15, 2019 at 4:53 PM

    You have officially made me want to read this book! I’ve got to go see if my library has it now!

    1. Kal

      September 17, 2019 at 12:37 PM

      MY WORK HERE IS DONE! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  3. Sophie @ Me and Ink

    September 16, 2019 at 3:35 AM

    This sounds like a really interesting read– I love atmospheric reads with lyrical prose as there is something so magical about it. It definitely seems perfect for this time of year as well.
    I love that this is a fantasy book with anxiety representation and supportive parents as things like this can be quite rare in the fantasy genre.
    This sounds super interesting and I love your review (and the quotes)!! 💛

    1. Kal

      September 17, 2019 at 12:43 PM

      I completely agree with you on atmospheric reads with lyrical prose feeling like magic! I have to be in the right mood for them, which is a reason this review is 6 months after publication, but I really enjoyed it once I got into it! AND YES the anxiety rep was truly special.

  4. Theelderbooks

    September 16, 2019 at 3:44 AM

    Sounds strange. Isn’t the dual narration a little confusing ?

    1. Kal

      September 17, 2019 at 12:44 PM

      Oh yea, it was confusing for me until the two storylines converged! There’s this dreamlike, Pan’s Labyrinth quality that permeates throughout and it took time for me to settle in. I wound up really enjoying it, though!

  5. dbsguidetothegalaxy

    September 17, 2019 at 4:44 AM

    THAT SUMMARY??? instant attention!! and add to my tbr and quick check to see if my library has it (and if they don’t, a quick recommendation – I checked, they didn’t have it and so had to recommend it). It sounds so good? Extremely creepy, yes, but I’m very interested in reading it!

    1. Kal

      September 20, 2019 at 10:47 AM

      It is such a neat book and soooooooo beautifully written! I hope your library picks it up on your recommendation so you can give it a try!

  6. Ahana Rao

    September 17, 2019 at 4:48 AM

    Ohhhh! Kal this book sounds like a dream! I once read a book where one of the protagonists thought differently from normal. And the writing in itself when her character spoke was like wading through a dream. It was beautiful.
    Omg SAME. I struggle with multiple POVs too and it takes some really good writing to get me to appreciate it and for me to find the rhythm of the story.

    Loved your review and that first quote was so splendid. Definitely giving this book a read!

    1. Kal

      September 20, 2019 at 10:49 AM

      Yes this book totally has a dreamlike quality to it! Even though I struggled with this at first (mostly because I NEED to understand what’s going on and… that understanding doesn’t come quickly) but I loved how it all came together! Sometimes you just need to let go and let the words wash over your eyeballs. I hope you enjoy this one, Ahana!

  7. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall

    September 19, 2019 at 2:28 PM

    Lovely review, Kal!!! As I mentioned before, I did have some issues getting into the writing at the start, but I might pick this one up again, since it’s the perfect time of year to pick up an atmospheric read like this one! It’s good to know that it has a great ending, and I’m so happy that the anxiety rep is well done! <3

    1. Kal

      September 20, 2019 at 12:10 PM

      Thank you so much, Kelly! And I know exactly what you mean… I tried to read this in March and just couldn’t do it; I had barely made it two chapters before setting it aside. I think mood will have a lot to do with the reader’s experience. I hope if you do pick it up again that it works better for you!

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