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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Into the Heartless Wood, Joanna Ruth Meyer: A Review

From the stunning cover to the beautiful blurb, I knew I had to request this book and I was thrilled to be approved. Look at that green, the font--just wow. I quickly dove in.

Owen has always lived at the edge of the woods where the sirens prey. Gwydden and her eight daughters have no mercy, luring townspeople into the woods, stealing souls in a wake of blood. Owen lost his own mother to the woods, and when his two year old sister Awela is lured away, he doesn't hesitate to go after her. Because of this, Owen meets the youngest daughter, a monster both terrifying and beautiful, and their meeting will change the course of their lives and everyone's lives around them. Wow. I loved this book so much. I didn't know where this would go at first. Siren songs have been done countless times, and it's hard to transform a classic into something that doesn't feel like a trope. Here, Meyer succeeds. The relationship between Owen and Seren is wonderfully developed. From their first meeting to the very last page, I was invested in their story and couldn't wait to see how it would unfold. Several times as I read, I was struck by the lyrical prose. Meyer's writing is exquisite, her storytelling full of imagery and music, and I couldn't get enough. The story itself blended oral tradition, fairy tales, and myth. I got some serious Moana vibes at times, but a more mature rendition--and in the best possible way. It is an effortless read, but that should not be mistaken for simple. Seren's struggle with her mother is wrought with metaphor and symbolism. Obligation versus free will. Family versus love. Duty versus morality. Owen, too, deals with all of these things, and their parallel struggles reflect the symmetry of their love. This is a story you will fall in love with. The words bleed off the page. I could see this becoming a shelf staple in my house because it is that beautiful and complex. This is a story that will make you question your own heart. What does it mean to have a soul? What does it mean to have a heart? Can one exist without the other? Are we bound to be only what others expect of us? Accessible enough for a YA audience, but definitely profound and lyrical to stand on its own legs with an adult audience, too. Overall, Into the Heartless Wood is a lyrical, powerful examination of love and obligation that will take your breath away. If you're a fan of fairy tale narratives, ethereal mysticism, or you love epic battles of good versus evil, this will be the book for you. I highly recommend adding this one to your 2021 TBRs now. Huge thanks to Page Street Kids and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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