Magical and Enchanting: A Review of After the Forest by Kell Woods
Magical and enchanting: a review of After the Forest by Kell Woods.
Fifteen years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Their father and stepmother are long dead, Hans has his debts, and a bloody war has ravaged the land. But as long as Greta has her gingerbread recipe (found in a book from the witch long ago), she can keep their small family afloat.
But dark magic is returning to the woods. Wolves howl in the night, there have been bodies, gruesomely murdered, found in the woods, and Greta has even caught sight of an enormous black bear wandering the forest.
In a village full of superstition, Greta, with her red hair, her past with the witch, and her mysteriously addictive gingerbread, is a source of gossip and suspicion. But something dark looms on the horizon, and Greta’s secret magic—a magic she is still discovering herself—may be the only thing that can stop it.
I don’t mind a fairytale retelling or two. The different or extended takes on a traditional tale often explore contrasting points of view, bring an old story into contemporary times, or turn them into full-blown fantasy novels. My favourite reteller of old tales has been Kate Forsyth for quite some time. Kell Woods has just joined her on that lofty pedestal.
Woods has taken the tale of Hansel and Gretel, brought it forward twenty years (or so), and given it a new, even witchier, spin adding in shape-shifting beasts, mercenaries, characters from other fairytales, magic, and, of course, a satisfying amount of romance (just enough for those of you who like romance and written so well you’ll still be happy with the outcome if romance is not your thing). Magical and enchanting indeed!
I was lucky enough to attend the first book launch of After the Forest. Kell Woods is a natural storyteller. She kept us as entertained with her stories of how she came to write her debut novel, her research trip to the Black Forest, and her journey to publication as she does with her beautiful writing. Her story is an inspiration for aspiring authors and if you have the opportunity to hear her speak, I recommend you go.
Back to After the Forest. At times, I had to put the novel down with frustration at the main character’s actions. Greta makes mistakes. She sometimes trusts those she shouldn’t and is not careful enough about her magic. In the 16 century, a woman only had to look a little cross-eyed to be accused, tried, and burned for being a witch. A red-haired woman with a troubled past and a wondrous talent for baking gingerbread lives her life on the edge just by existing! Greta even entered my dreams – or rather her actions did. This goes to show how well readers will relate to this story and to Greta. The writing is superb, polished and of a depth that allows the reader to jump in and absorb the story being shared.
I highly recommend this one.
About the author
Kell Woods is an Australian historical fantasy author. She lives near the sea with her husband, two sons, and the most beautiful black cat in the realm.
Kell studied English literature, creative writing and librarianship, so she could always be surrounded by stories. She has worked in libraries for the past twelve years, all the while writing about made-up (and not so made-up) places, people and things you might remember from the fairy tales you read as a child.
You can find Kell online here:
Publisher: Voyager (1 October 2023)
Genre: Grimdark, Historical Fantasy, Magical Realism, Fairy tale retelling