I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book immediately reeled me in with its magical atmosphere and fairytale plot. I love the premise of worlds interlacing and colliding with each other, causing seemingly inexplicable Vanishings.

Premise

The story begins with an alarming phenomenon sweeping the world: people beginning to Vanish. They all seem to know if they’re next, and they prepare for their departures like dying elephants to their graves. There’s an exception: children don’t Vanish. Nobody knows how or why this strange thing happens, and even a scientific committee is founded to investigate.

Character

Max is a peculiar kobold baby who appeared in a bookshop and sent to an orphanage. Adopted by a couple but determined to find his Forever Parents, Max knows the only way to discover more about himself is through reading. And, he just may be the answer to the Vanishings. As a fellow reader and fantasy lover, I sympathize with Max a lot. He’s always more comfortable tucked away with a thick, leather-bound book than, say, socializing (LIKE ME). Max is dreamy and sometimes simultaneously courageous and stupid. Because he never felt he fit in among his peers or even in his adopted family, Max desperately wants to finally find a place in the world, whether in this world or in the Beginning Woods. He takes all the weird, magical stuff in strides, even when it’s potentially fatal. I love the adventurer in Max.

Martha is a Cold One Max meets in the Beginning Woods. I think that means she’s a ghost, a ghost whose family won’t visit even when she waits all year for them. She’s a bossy, sulky, and delightful tour guide for Max. I don’t think I relate to her as much as Max, but she certainly adds another dimension to the tale.

Worldbuilding

I must say, I love the world more than the story. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Michel Ende’s Momo or The Neverending Story, books I adored as a kid. It’s filled with childhood delights yet overcast with a sense of gloom and danger, exactly the mixture for adventures! The Beginning Woods holds endless possibilities for strange things and people, like

dream-sucking creature-clouds and

trees that tell stories.

Like docile fire-breathing dragons

and dragon hunters.

What a world.

Delicious Exquisite Writing

Speaking of things I love, the author’s writing style is another of my favorite. It combines poetic and precise descriptions with polished and meaningful dialogue. Instead of weighing down the story, the descriptions only build it up even more.

Bonus: this book has lots and lots of unique formatting.

Plot & Pacing

The plot and pacing was a little slow and meandering in the first half of the story, recounting the beginning of the Vanishings and Max’s childhood. But, as a not-too-objective reader, I really don’t care if the pacing is slow as long as there’s delicious descriptions! The pacing picked up, though, when Max enters into the Beginning Woods and really starts the adventure. Although the book contains much juvenile capering, it can speak more deeply to youths and adults through its philosophical contemplation children would probably miss.

Final Thoughts

The Beginning Woods is a delicate, pleasant book layered with fantasy, mystery, and childish adventures. If you enjoy darker versions of children’s books or quirky fantasy, The Beginning Woods has much to offer.

 

Do you enjoy peculiar reads that capture the whimsy of childhood? Are there any books you recommend in this genre?

 

Gleeful Grace book review of The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill The Beginning Woods

By Malcolm McNeill

A MYSTERY NO ONE CAN SOLVE

The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.

A BABY NO ONE WANTED

Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.

A SECRET THAT COULD SAVE THE FUTURE

To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.

But can he bear the truth – or will is destroy him?

A STORY THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER WORLD

Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…

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