Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are all suffering from chocolate overdoses and vowing never to eat chocolate again, because that means you did Easter the right way!
As for me, not only did I eat way too much, but I also managed to find some time to finish Wild Wood. Which was definitely a good thing, because this book had started to grate on my nerves. In fact, the majority of this book grated on my nerves.
The premise of Wild Wood is awesome, though. Our protagonist, Jesse Marley, finds out that she’s adopted and so goes to the UK to find her birth family. Only, when she gets there she gets hit by a bus and ends up in hospital. While she’s there, she starts drawing all of these things with her left hand, her “beta” hand for lack of a better word. And Jesse has never seen these things before in her life. But her doctor has. So the storyline is solid. But everything else is pretty sub-par.
For one thing, I don’t understand the structure. We open with a battle in 1068, and a child who seeks shelter behind a statue of the Mother (the Virgin Mary) and then that’s it. That battle is never referenced again. The statue is, but you have to figure out the link for yourself. And it takes a while because the statue of the Mother is barely referenced either.
Then there’s the dual perspectives of Jesse Marley in 1981 and Bayard Dieudonne in the 14th century. Jesse’s perspective is in third person and Bayard’s is in first person. This felt like a strange decision. If Bayard is supposed to be the main character, because why else would Graeme-Evans put his perspective in the first person, why don’t we hear from him first? Or why was he in the first person in the first place? Why weren’t both perspectives told in the third person? This felt clunky.
That being said, both perspectives had definite voices. There was no getting Jesse and Bayard confused. Which seems redundant to say, given that each voice was written in a different kind of POV, but even when that happens it can be hard to differentiate between characters. Graeme-Evans didn’t have that problem.
I had a real issue with Jesse’s character. It was a similar issue to the one I had with Pip in Great Expectations: selfishness. Jesse finds out that she’s adopted and so flies over to the other side of the world, ignoring the parents who looked after her for her entire life and never once stopped to think about how hard it would have been for her parents to have their only daughter find out that she wasn’t originally their’s. These people may not have been Jesse’s biological parents but so what? They took Jesse out of a bad situation, raised her, and gave her a good life. But no, Jesse decides that none of that means anything, that all of the love and support she’d been given meant diddly-squat because she didn’t have the same DNA. I’m probably being really harsh because I have no idea what it would be like to find out that you weren’t born into your family, but abandoned and then rescued, but I felt Jesse was being far too melodramatic and essentially disrespectful. It can’t have been easy for her parents when Jesse found out about her heritage, but Jesse was too selfish to see it.
There were also a lot of illogical plot points. And this is coming from a girl whose favourite series involves a boy addicted to demon powder, another boy who is cursed by a different demon, and a shape-shifting teenager who is a warlock with no spell-magic. The biggest plot point I had difficulty swallowing was when Jesse decided to go with her doctor to Hundredfield, his childhood home. Basically, after the accident Jesse’s doctor Rory Brandon wants to keep working with her so that he can make sure that Jesse is completely healed. Only Jesse has no money. So Rory suggests taking her to Hundredfield. Alone. Just her and him. And Jesse accepts! Where is her sense of self-preservation? Essentially this man, a stranger, is taking Jesse to a strange place in a foreign country so that he can work on her? Really? If that were me, or anyone I know, they would have said “Errr, no thanks. I don’t feel like being murdered today, I think I’ll hop on a plane back home and figure something else out, cheers.” I could not believe that anyone would accept that offer. There had to be a more believable way to get Jesse to Hundredfield.
I’ve been picking on Jesse’s story a lot and haven’t really touched on Bayard’s. That’s because Bayard’s was a lot more believable. Except for the whole Lady of the Forest thing. And this was the big link between Bayard and Jesse, so this was a serious problem. The legend goes that a woman appears in the forest, somehow bewitches a man (because the Lady of the Forest can’t speak), falls pregnant (always with a daughter), and dies not long after the birth. Then the Lady’s body disappears. And that’s it. No weird magical powers except the ability to speak into someone’s mind. It was the lamest legend ever. There’s no point to the Lady of the Forest. Just some woman whose entire life revolves around falling pregnant. This legend should have been fleshed out more so as to make it relevant. What’s the point of having a magical being in your story if it doesn’t do anything?
Relationships were handled terribly in this book as well. Jesse meets Rory’s brother Mack and all of a sudden they’re all hot and heavy for each other. Bayard takes to looking after his brother’s kids and his servant/mistress after his brother dies and suddenly the servant and Bayard are in love. There is no building of romantic tension. No flirting, no anything that we usually associate with blossoming romance. Just, all of a sudden, the two characters are kissing and calling each other pet names and things. I didn’t buy it. Not at all.
Oh! And the final reveal? The big twist at the end? Horrible! All of the information is given at the end. We don’t get any clues, or any indication that the story is going to go the way it does. Usually this is a good thing, but only when it’s handled properly. Instead, Graeme-Evans holds all of the information until the final chapter. There’s no time for us to interpret clues in our own way and then be pleasantly surprised because there are no clues. Mysteries are made amazing by the strategic placement of information throughout the novel. Not by withholding everything until the final chapters and then dumping it on us and expecting us to believe it. That’s just not how it’s done.
Despite the many, many plot holes and horribly handled character developments, I still found the story engaging enough to finish. So, for that, I give this book: