The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge
Expected Publication: 2019 by Hot Key Books
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror
Format: Paperback, ARC
Thank you so much Pansing for sending me the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! Rachel Burge’s The Twisted Tree will be available at all good bookstores.
The Twisted Tree is Rachel Burge’s debut novel and although it’s not entirely my cup of tea due to certain aspects which I will go on in detail afterwards (warning: spoilers!), I find it a good read.
The writing clearly shows that the author is new to the craft. There are a bunch of scenes and descriptions that read as though they’re there simply to move the ‘time’ of the story forward so that the juicier bits can arrive sooner. There’s also a number of awkward dialogue tags and awkward dialogue itself. Also, I’ve found some typographical errors in the ARC I’ve received (such as the misspelling of Martha’s name on page 113, and what appears to be a missing word in the line “On Mormor’s bedside table is an embroidery and a small pair of scissors” on page 207).
Other than that, I found the romance between Stig and Martha rather disconcerting and sometimes, distracting. It feels as though the book is abruptly switching between fluffy love-at-first-sight romance and the scarier, horrific parts of the paranormal. For instance, the moment after Martha and Stig stumble upon the corpses of Olav and Yrsa. The shock is momentarily there and so is the fear, but it’s gone like the wind the moment Martha decides to flirt with Stig. Like uh, hello? You just saw two mutilated bodies? And, you’re flirting now? The two aspects of this book might work better had Burge attempt other ways of executing it. Perhaps by making the romance part more subtle? Maybe through the actions of the characters instead of spelling it out via Martha’s thoughts.
On the topic of Martha’s love interest, Stig is the embodiment of the Emo Guy All Girls Will Crush on When They Were Tweens (I mean, a number of us millennials has gone through a phase back in the 2000s where we were all over boys wearing eyeliner and singing rock music of any kind). Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a lovely guy and I’m all for him dressing however the way he likes. But, the notion of him is still a little…cringey. Mainly because I keep recalling who I was whenever I’m faced with Stig. There’s no denying that my tween self would’ve loved him to bits, despite how shady he can be.
Although none of the characters are my favourite here, I think they have solid characterisations. Not as complex as I hoped for, but definitely not incorrigibly flat as well. There’s an unsolved mystery around Stig which I’m dying to find out, and Martha’s fortunately not so much of a love-blind fool that I feel like tearing my hair out while reading about her crush.
What I really loved while I was reading this book is the thriller, paranormal and Nordic lore bits. Within this text, the writing is at its best during these moments. The story flowed smoothly. The kinaesthetic and visual imagery are well put-together. I got the creeps every time the spooky side came out!