The stores have been pumpkined out for ages, but Halloween is really around the corner now. Time to curl up with a book that suits the season. Reading The White Forest was like curling up by a dark fireside and having a cup of spiced cider. A definite page-turner in lush detail with just the right amount of eerie and spook to make the lily-livered and horror queens happy.
Author Adam McOmber knows his way around the Victorian era. (And he knows it the way booklovers like best: through its stories.) The White Forest’s Jane Silverlake is beset by misfortunes shared by many of her literary sisters: she is motherless with an eccentric distant father and lives far away from polite society. (London, of course.) Her only refuge comes in the friendships she forges with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan, and it is with them that she discovers the joys of wandering the heath.
Like childhood, the fragile economy of this triumvirate can only last so long. The young women’s feelings for Nathan strains their relationship. But Jane’s secret powers—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects-—may be the greatest threat to them all. The more conventional Madeleine finds them terrifying. Nathan has developed an interest in the occult on his own, joining a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.
When Nathan disappears, Jane soon realizes that her powers may be the key to finding him …
To say more than that would be probably be criminal in any era. The White Forest offers all the pleasures of the historical and fantasy genres it fuses. The recovering academic in me knows the supernatural element is especially fitting in a novel set in the Victorian era, when there was a great deal of interest in the occult, perhaps most famously manifested in the Spiritualist movement that was a source of friction in Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning’s marriage. But to enjoy The White Forest no special knowledge or secret powers are required. Only a love of a good yarn and gorgeous, atmospheric writing.