After reading Chills last year, my first Mary SanGiovanni book, the author immediately shot to my must-read list and I’d been patiently waiting for her next release since finishing that prior story. Chills was a great introduction to Mary’s work, so I dove right into Savage Woods at the first opportunity.
Unfortunately, Savage Woods didn’t entirely work for me – mostly due to personal hurdles, rather than the author’s work. As much as I love horror and this genre’s tropes, I’m not real big on the fantasy genre. Although Mary draws on Native American folklore for the crux of her narrative, the execution was a little too lite-fantasy for me.
In the woods of Nilhollow, deep in the Pine Barrens, an ancient evil is beginning to awaken. The wood sprites are panicking and going insane, which means it’s a pretty crappy time to get lost in the woods. Or, as is the case with Julia Russo, have her car run off the road by her crazy ex-boyfriend stalker and chased into the woods by the axe-wielding maniac.
There’s some cool stuff happening within these pages. I loved an early depiction of a prisoner’s breakdown and the ensuing fallout as he confesses to a New Jersey patrolman the nature of these woods and what’s lurking within. There’s also a nice heaping of gore and violence, and the shifty nature of the Nilhollow woods and its promise of madness is conceptually cool and well executed.
So what’s my problem? Well – and again, it’s a Me issue all the way – I couldn’t help but find the threats in the wood a little bit corny. Again, I’m not a big fan of the fantasy genre, and the use of tree monsters as the primary evil reminded me too much of psychotic Ents and Groots gone wrong (and mind you, I love me some Groot, but it’s an odd mental image to be carrying around with this book’s particular tone). Had the threat been something along the lines of spores, for instance, I think I would have been more drawn in.
This mental obstacle was one I brought to the table, and it was, unfortunately, one that I could not quite get over. Even in spite of this, there’s a good deal to enjoy here; I just wasn’t able to sink into this book as deeply as I wanted due to my own inability to suitably suspend disbelief with these particular horrors.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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