Sunday, January 16, 2011

January British Book Challenge 2011: Shadow Forest

Title: Shadow Forest
Author: Matt Haig
Published: Corgi, 2008

Synopsis:Nobody listens to Samuel Blink, not even his parents when he's trying to tell them a falling log is about to crush their car! After the death of their parents Samuel and Martha Blink are sent for by their Aunt Eda, who lives in Norway without a TV, a computer, or her husband Uncle Henrik. She does; however, have lots of rules and a big scary Shadow Forest right next to her house. But why should Samuel follow all her rules now, what has he got to lose? What would happen if he went into the Shadow Forest?

Star parts:  The beginning is very well built up. You know something is going to happen (I'll come to that bit in a minute). You get led to believe it's going to happen straight away, then it doesn't so you relax a little bit and then wham!

I loved the world of the Shadow Forest, the tunnels, the little houses, the little clues that something has gone awry here. In fact once Aunt Eda also entered the Shadow Forest, the reader is completely immersed in this world and its creatures, its culture and the drastic changes that have taken place. In fact, at this point, the pace of the plot really picks up and it's an unputdownable page turner. It's also pretty funny. The huldres seemed a little bit like Golem (you know, from Lord of the Rings), but the other creature were original or sufficiently different from traditional takes to be interesting all over again. I'm not sure which of the creatures I liked the most: the truth pixie, the slemp, the trolls (maybe the trolls) or the servants of Thuluba (ooh, I really liked that bit too).

The human characters: Samuel and Martha (who is mute) were also well created. I felt like I got to know them quite well, although it was as though they told me what they were like quite a bit rather than showed me, but then Martha was mute! I, like the author, also liked Aunt Eda, the fact that she often welled up and was still waiting for the love of her life to return. Her accent was a bit of a stereotype, but she did have a super cool part in the book.

Black clouds: Now these aren't small grey rain clouds in an otherwise blue sky. These next points I found majorly annoying. Firstly, Haig starts the book with Humans and other creatures you will meet in this book. This section is irritating because it GIVES AWAY parts of the plot! Hello Mr. Haig! The story is good, why did you do that? Then as if that bit was not irritating enough he does it again, not once, but TWICE with interruptions from the author and yet again he gives key points of the plot away. I think it's meant to be a comic device, but to me it says: my plot isn't strong enough and I don't trust my reader to understand what is going on. The first half of the book does lack a bit of pizazz in terms of pace. It picks up, it slows down, it picks up, it slows down, but what it didn't need was those interruptions.

Do I recommend it: Despite a couple of annoying bits, I did really enjoy it, so yes I do recommend it. Haig is funny, the characters are funny, the plot is engaging and the Shadow Forest is an amazing world to visit. Oh, and I really liked the ending.

If you don't know what the British Book Challenge is you can find out about it here and here.


Becky said...

I agree about the author interruptions. They were annoying. I also agree that the beginning is great. Really builds dramatic tension. Lovely review.

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Thanks Becky, just about to do my second for January (if the little bubba lets me!)


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