Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.
I love dark fantasy stories. And this one? Well, it sounded pretty dark to me. I was very excited to get the chance to read this ARC, especially when it has such a pretty cover. And the best part? This is a standalone so I knew I didn’t have to worry about waiting forever for the next book in the series. So let’s get on with the review:
Summary (Goodreads): Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all?
Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.
Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.
Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.
Review: Initially, this novel started off quite slow, which worried me because I wanted something with a ton of action. But after a few chapters, the story started to shine and I was hooked.
I actually really liked the plot of this story. The entire premise of a place where people could live a peaceful life in exchange for a sacrifice once every 7 years was very interesting, and the mentality of the people about this was both bizarre and understandable at the same time. I think the author set up the story very well and there was a lot of depth and darkness to the plot; this is in no way a light and happy read. The author took a unique approach in that she did not make the events in the forest the main part of the story; instead, the story could be divided into before entering the forest, and after entering the forest. Most authors would have tried to capitalize on the experience in the forest itself, making it the entire plot of the story. I actually enjoyed this new approach because it added more intrigue to the story. What happened in the forest? How did it change the various characters? What is the big secret?
I did think that the two major reveals in this story weren’t that hard to guess. Well, okay, let me be more fair. I think the first reveal that occurs right after the forest wasn’t really explained well enough to give me that shock factor. When that truth came out, I thought … wait, isn’t that how it was supposed to be? There was a question raised from that secret (sorry for being so cryptic in my explanation but I really don’t want to spoil anything!) that I don’t think was ever properly addressed, so that was a bit of a bummer. Nevertheless, I did like the way things came to a climax and the final conclusion of the story. It was well-rounded and tied up all loose ends.
My one issue with this novel was with the main characters, specifically Mairwen and Arthur. I just couldn’t get my head around their personalities. Arthur has a very abrasive personality, and while the author tried to justify it, I felt it was a bit too abrasive for me to connect with him. I couldn’t really empathize with a character that was constantly attacking people and sneering at those who cared for him. And that brings me to Mairwen’s character. She supposedly cared for Arthur but I never really felt that? Perhaps the author was trying to portray a love-hate relationship that was complex, but it felt quite forced for me, with no real tenderness to it. I also didn’t really get a sense of Mairwen’s personality. All I knew was that she kept getting “called” or drawn to the forest. Apart from that (and her confusing feelings for the other characters), there really didn’t seem much to her. She kept being called weird but I didn’t really see what was so weird about her? It was all a bit strange and I think this aspect of the novel could have been strengthened.
This novel started off slow, but as the darker elements of the story began to unfold, I was drawn into it and could not wait to see how things would end. However, the characters were not developed as well as I would have liked, which affected my ability to fully connect with this story. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 3/5 stars!
Happy reading ~