Hey guys! Are any of you like me, in that sometimes you want a specific setting in a book? I spend hours trawling Goodreads’ lists (about the only time I can be bothered to go on there, oops) for books set in a wood, or set by the coast, or set in *insert current country of interest here*. So, I’ve decided to start doing my own top ten location blog posts! First up, we have my top ten books set in a forest.
Otherwise known as books that are perfect for reading on a rainy day, curled up under a blanket with a mug of steaming hot chocolate.
The Waking Land by Callie Bates
“Wildegarde came bearing a flame in her heart and her hair crowned with the pale light of stars. Where she placed her feet, the earth trembled. Where she raised her hand, mountains moved.”
-Callie Bates, The Waking Land
Coming out soon, on June 29th, The Waking Land has the forest and landscape at the root of the novel, as 20 year old Elanna, figurehead of a rebellion might just possess the magic needed to make the earth itself listen to her. Gorgeously atmospheric, this NA is a slow burner and has a great forest-y, magical feel to it. Read this one while it’s raining.
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything…”
-Renee Ahdieh, Flame in the Mist
Set in a campsite in the middle of a dark and feared forest in feudal Japan, the forest and the creatures that lurk within it become a character in their own right in Flame in the Mist. A slower read, this YA is worth picking up just for the setting and Ahdieh’s customary, swoon-worthy descriptions.
Incubus by Carol Goodman
“This is where all stories start, on the edge of a dark wood…”
-Carol Goodman, Incubus
This adult, gothic, paranormal/urban fantasy is instantly addictive and evocative. The first in a completed trilogy, Incubus I’ve reread countless times, but wasn’t as big a fan of the other books. Callie moves into a supposedly haunted Victorian cottage on the edge of a mysterious forest in New England to take up a new teaching position at the local college. And then her dreams begin…. Accompanied by Callie discovering the local legends might be more than just legend… Incubus is twisty and difficult to predict where it will take you next, all while being deliciously atmospheric and best read on a stormy day.
Hunted by Meagan Spooner
“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest-and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. She reminds us of what we used to be.
She reminds us of what we could be.”
-Meagan Spooner, Hunted
Hunted is a YA Beauty and the Beast retelling, with an empowered, lethal Beauty, set in a Russian forest. And yet, it is so much more than that. To me, this book embodies exactly what I love about fairytales: It is atmospheric, magical and romantic. It is written to beautifully capture the setting and mood and will leave you savouring each sentence. Hunted reminded me of the magic that words can hold when they’re perfectly crafted. If you can’t read this one in an old castle on a snowy day, then a rainy day will have to do.
In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
“It was growing dark, and somehow the shadows made it feel as if all the trees had taken a collective step towards the house, edging in to shut out the sky.”
-Ruth Ware, In a Dark Dark Wood
This adult thriller/mystery is one to remind you that woods can be dark places, hiding more than shadows in their depth. A hen weekend in a remote cottage has secrets from the past catching up with Nora. And then something goes horribly, terribly wrong. In a Dark Dark Wood is deliciously creepy, twisty and highly addictive. I read this one in a single sitting and I defy you not to do the same! Best read by candle light with rain streaking down the windows.
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
“The thorns thinned out and the trees grew taller and straighter, their branches not beginning until a few feet over our heads. The white, peeled bark of the birches looked buttery in the long, slanting afternoon light, and their leaves were a delicate gold.”
-Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver
Beautifully romantic, Shiver is the first book in a completed YA trilogy by the ever-great Maggie Stiefvater. Featuring Grace, drawn to the pack of wolves that are reputed to be stalking the local woods, and Sam, a boy that bears a startling resemblance to one of the wolves… Shiver is sweet and as lovely as a poem. My favourite Stiefvater book, read this one for a gorgeous foresty setting, lots of kissing, book appreciation and some amazing foodie passages that will make you crave porridge/chocolate. Just trust me.
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
“Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.”
-S. Jae-Jones, Wintersong
Set in small town Bavaria, on the edge of the woods, Wintersong reads like a true fairytale, one of the darker, original ones, as Liesl’s sister is taken Underground by the Goblin King and Liesl must brave the journey to reclaim her. A YA for older readers, the evocative prose and atmospheric world building of this novel is a delight and not to be missed.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
“She looked directly up into the northern lights and she wondered if those cold-burning spectres might not draw her breath, her very soul, out of her chest and into the stars.”
-Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child
Another one of my favourite novels, The Snow Child is set in the remoteness of 1920s Alaska, the freezing winters and hardship an accompaniment to Jack and Mable’s longing for a child. Then, one day, a little girl appears on their land. Inspired by an old Russian fairytale, The Snow Child is an enchanting read, best devoured while snuggled up under a pile of thick blankets to ward off the imaginary Alaskan cold.
The Shadow Queen by C J Redwine
“Her skin was as white as snow, her lips as red as blood, and her long hair as black as ebony.”
-C J Redwine, The Shadow Queen
The first in a YA fantasy series of standalones, each re-imagining a fairytale, The Shadow Queen re-invents the story of Snow White. Lorelai, crown princess and fugitive needs to kill the wicked queen who’s currently on her throne after killing Lorelia’s father. When the queen sends her dragon-shifting huntsman after Lorelai, little does she imagine that the hunstman and the princess might find an undeniable attraction between them. Magic, forests and high fantasy make this one an epic read!
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
“Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.”
-Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale
Okay, I’m cheating a bit with this one as I haven’t read it yet! But LOOK at that cover! Seriously. The Bear and the Nightingale is set in a village at the edge of the wilderness in northern Russia, I hear it’s utterly magical and beautiful and that’s all I need to know I’m going to LOVE it. It’s on my immediate TBR thanks to my lovely bestie Alex who gifted me a copy in the edition I’d been pining after!
Thank you all for reading! What do you all think of my new series of blog posts? Are there any specifics you’d like me to compile a top ten for? I already have on a ship/boat and coastal locations planned and coming up shortly! Can you think of any other fave books of yours set in a forest/wood? I’m looking to add to my wishlist of fairytale retellings, too!