Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Review: 'Silver in the Woods' by Emily Tesh

What first drew me to Silver in the Wood was its stunning cover, the trees and the wood intertwining to form a man’s face. I have always loved trees and wild woods. They contain history, in a way, and their quiet fortitude is rather inspiring at times. So of course I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the Wild man of the woods. Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 6/18/2019

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge,
"A true story of the woods, of the fae, and of the heart. Deep and green and wonderful.”—New York Times bestselling author Naomi Novik 
There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads. 
When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart. 
Praise for Emily Tesh's Silver in the Wood:"A wildly evocative and enchanting story of old forests, forgotten gods, and new love. Just magnificent."—Jenn Lyons, author of The Ruin of Kings

Silver in the Woods is more like  a folk tale than  a novella. The setting is quite precise and yet vague enough that it could be any wood. It sometimes felt as if I was reading a story I knew but which was being presented to me in a completely new way. Some aspects of the story reminded me of the Green Man archetype in folktales, a symbol of growth and rebirth, but also a symbol that closely ties man and nature together. Us humans aren’t separate from nature, we are of it, and Silver in the Woods couldn’t make this clearer. There is a love for nature that runs through Tesh’s writing that sometimes reminded me of how Tolkien’s passion for trees shone through in The Lord of the Rings. Whereas Christianity and other religions of the Book set man against nature, our earlier religions saw us as one with it, and so both Tobias, Henry and everyone else who comes in touch with the woods remains, in a way, a part of it.

Silver in the Woods follows Tobias Finch, the Wild Man of Greenhollow, who was once a man but is now something else. The caretaker of the woods, perhaps? Its spirit, somehow? It’s not entirely made clear by Tesh and I prefer it that way. Tobias’ quiet life is shaken up by the arrival of Henry Silver, the new lord of Greenhollow Hall who is absolutely fascinated with the woods and with folklore. Henry brings some human joy to Tobias’ life, but he also draws the attention of the old ghosts that haunt the Greenhollow woods. In Silver in the Woods magic and folklore are always just under the surface. The woods are a place of life, death, worship and depravity. They are a place where you can both find and lose yourself, face your fears and discover new ones. Tesh captures the beautiful duality of the woods in Silver in the Woods and they form the perfect background for the tentative romance and self-discovery her characters go through.

Although the cover was the first thing that drew my eye to Silver in the Woods, it was also the Naomi Novik’s enthusiastic endorsement that convinced me. I adored her novel Spinning Silver, which brought a fascinating twist to the Rumpelstiltskin tale. Similarly to Novik, Emily Tesh crafts some wonderful imagery in Silver in the Woods. There are some stunning phrases throughout the novella that truly transported me and captured some of the timelessness of nature and storytelling.  Although Silver in the Woods is quite a gentle novel, it doesn’t shy away from laying bare the cruelty and greed of humanity. It asks us how we use our power, what we’re willing to sacrifice, and how far we’ll go to win back what we’ve lost. Tesh doesn’t get too moralizing, but it is quite clear what she thinks herself.

I give this novel...
4 Universes!

Silver in the Woods is a beautiful tale that will whisk its reader away. With stunning nature descriptions and lovely interactions between characters, Silver in the Woods is a sadly short but very rewarding read. I’d recommend this to anyone with a love of woods and a passion for folklore.

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