by Joanna Ruth Meyer
*cover image and synopsis from Goodreads*
The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.
When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.
Into the Heartless Wood is a beautiful retelling of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, while being its own story.
First off, Joanna’s writing is beautiful. I love her prose. It is just lovely and has an almost lyrical feeling at times. It flows wonderfully and I love reading it.
Now onto the story itself.
Like I said above, Into the Heartless Wood has echoes of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Joanna does a wonderful job of weaving these elements into the story. However, despite having some strong fairy tale notes in it, Into the Heartless Wood doesn’t feel like a fairy tale retelling in the sense that it doesn’t feel super predictable. While I love fairy tale retellings, they can sometimes all feel a little bit the same since they follow the same beats from the original fairy tale. I didn’t feel that with Into the Heartless Wood. Joanna ties the fairy tale elements and her unique story together beautifully.
Now, Into the Heartless Wood is a darker story. The villains in this story are evil. And while it’s mostly non-graphic, there is a lot of violence and blood. Honestly, Into the Heartless Wood is kind of like the original Grimms’ fairy tales in the way that it is dark and violent. It isn’t a Disney fairy tale.
The characters were great. The worldbuilding was lovely, with just the right touch of eerieness fitting of the story. The plot was paced nicely. And I loved the fairy tale elements.
Overall, Into the Heartless Wood is a great story that fairy tale fans will enjoy. But it is in the vein of Grimms’ fairy tales, so if you struggle with darker, more violent stories, you might want to pass on this one.
Cautions: heavy, semi-graphic violence; moderate romance; two kisses; eight swear words; three blasphemy; magic