Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Queer Rep: Demisexual, Pansexual
Warnings: bullying, depictions of anxiety, mentions of transphobia, explicit sexual content
[Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.]
When Lander accepts a dare to go into the forest at night, he thinks it’ll be easy. He just needs to walk in and then come out, right? But that’s easier said than done. It’s like the trees have a mind of their own, and they are stopping him from finding his way back. There were always stories of people getting lost forever in the forest, but Lander had never considered they might be true.
Yban has been in the forest a long time and he knows it like no other—but he comes with his own secrets. He disappears every day, and he won’t tell Lander where he goes. But during the dark hours, Lander gets to know him and starts unwrapping the layers that surround him.
The fire that keeps them warm in the forest isn’t the only spark between them; will their growing relationship survive Lander’s determination to find the way out, or will Yban’s past mistakes keep them hidden in the forest forever?
This one was really difficult for me to rate. For the longest time, I didn’t rate it. This book, more than most, feels very much like a pure difference in stylistic taste. The tl;dr of this review is: The narrative style of this novella was not for me, but if you like the premise and the excerpt available on the publisher’s website, you will probably enjoy it very much.
The blurb for this book was intriguing to me from the get-go, which is why I happily offered to read an ARC. I’ve been craving fantasy and atmospheric settings, so this seemed right up my alley.
It was a slow start. We have a very naïve protagonist whose inner voice feels younger than I believe he’s meant to be. Since he’s alone for a good chunk of the first chapters, the reader is left mostly with his inner thoughts and depictions of the forest. There’s a peacefulness to it, but I found myself repeatedly frustrated while reading. Lander over-explains things. He narrates thoughts and emotions that could be easily gleaned from context. He tells and doesn’t show, and the writing is repetitious when it’s attempting to drive a point home.
These are pet peeves for me. Some people won’t care, or maybe even notice at all. But it’s something that makes the pace drag, and makes otherwise pretty writing feel dull.
The premise was interesting. A living forest, a mysterious stranger, secrets buried in the dark. I fought with the narrative style, but my desire to have my questions answered propelled me forward anyway. I couldn’t just leave this kid alone in the dark, never knowing why the forest refuses to let him go. And who is this Yban? What is he up to every day? Is he kind, or sinister? I was determined to find out.
The setting was beautiful, and another reason to stay along for the ride. It was both tranquil and unnerving, and the writing really shone as the dense trees and ever-present darkness was being described.
A big issue for me was Lander. I believe he’s meant to be in his early twenties, but his inner voice and personality scanned in as a young teenager to me. When Yban calls him “kid” and Lander corrects him, I was stunned. You mean to tell me you’re not a kid? I was convinced you were fourteen!
This hindered the overall romance for me. Yban looks and feels like a grown man, his voice much stronger and more certain of itself. I couldn’t reconcile the two in my head. What felt more like it should be a father/son dynamic was getting steamy, and no matter how many times I told myself ‘Lander is an adult’, it still didn’t jive with me. I skimmed the naughty bits and moved on.
The story itself—and the conclusion—is interesting. It’s a short piece that I think can be satisfying to many people, but it rubbed up against too many of my peeves to leave me feeling good about it. If the blurb piques your interest, take a jaunt over to Ninestarpress.com and read the excerpt. Because you could react just like me, or just the opposite.
Note: I am an Amazon Associate and I am using affiliate links. These do not affect you or my reviews.
You can order Waking Up the Sun here:
From NineStar Press: ebook
From Amazon.com: ebook