Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Woodcutter, by Kate Danley

This week I'm reviewing an e-book that came to my attention some while back. It's a fairly short book, really more of a novella which I feel ends up being a weakness of the work. I say that because the book definitely could have used some fleshing out and expansion, instead it feels like a rough outline of a much larger work. There are some really great ideas with the plot and the author incorporates quite a few European folk tales which shows the author has done her research. It's very much in the vein of the tv show Once Upon a Time, where you take a bunch of cool fantasy ideas, toss them in a blender, and hit puree to end up with an even more awesome fantasy smoothie. If that metaphor makes sense.

The plot is about the titular Woodcutter, an individual who is responsible for overseeing and keeping peace among the Twelve Kingdoms, all of which are tied to the Woodcutter's wood. The Twelve Kingdoms were created when twelve tribes of humans warred with the magical fae. The humans lost, of course, and were divided into their respective kingdoms ruled by a blue-blooded monarch. However, an unintended yet beneficial side effect was that the fae monarchs fell in love with humans and, bound by the power of true love, ruled benevolently for many generations. This cemented the alliance between humans and fae and it's the power of true love which keeps the kingdoms at peace.

Unfortunately, there are people who want to upset this balance and rule all of the Twelve Kingdoms, as well as the Wood at their center. When the Woodcutter finds out about this it's his responsibility, as arbiter and keeper of the peace, to find out who's behind it and stop them. I will say I've had to reveal stuff that was further on in the book than I thought it should be, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the basics of the plot so I thought it best to summarize it here.

As I said earlier, I kind of wished this book was longer because there are parts that aren't terribly fleshed out. For example, the Woodcutter can create rings with his pipe that never lie, but we're never told what they never lie about. I assume that they're some form of divination that he can utilize, but that's a best guess on my part. In addition, we don't really know where the bad guys come from or why they're planning what they're planning, it's just a sort of a generic take over the world, thirst for power plot. Which I guess is okay, especially in fairy tales, but I just got the feeling there was more to these characters than that. Overall the idea is very interesting and I quite enjoyed reading it, I just wish Danley had gone into more detail on a lot of things.

I did have some issues at the beginning when the Woodcutter refers to his wife merely as “Wife” and it describes them as being married for ten years and ten years more. It just felt weird to me that someone would refer to their spouse by just “Wife”, and also the word for ten and ten is twenty. They were married for twenty years. But aside from these really rather minor complaints and my lament that the book felt underdeveloped, overall I really enjoyed it. And with some characters, such as the Lady in Blue or the Duke, it makes slightly more sense for them to be named that because characters in fairy tales often have names akin to that. And being someone who's read quite a few folktales I rather enjoyed seeing the numerous references in the book, including some that are less well known. (Such as the soldier who captured Death in a bag, one of my favorite stories.)

If you're a fan of fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, and especially if you're a fan of the series Once Upon a Time you're definitely going to enjoy this book. As I said, it feels more like an outline at points and could have benefited from some fleshing out, but other than that it's a pretty good read, and not terribly long if you don't have a lot of time.

- Kalpar

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