The White ForestAuthor: Adam McOmber
Publisher: Touchstone, September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Gothic/Supernatural Mystery
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher
In this hauntingly original debut novel about a young woman whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society, Adam McOmber uses fantastical twists and dark turns to create a fast-paced, unforgettable story.
Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.
A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.
The White Forest is a mystery wrapped in the supernatural set in Victorian London. It's also the story of Jane Silverlake. As the book description notes, Jane can see the souls of objects. Why this is and its significance are unknown. Jane's only two friends are either afraid of Jane's disease (Maddy) or fascinated and obsessed by her talent (Nathan).
Much of the information about Jane, Maddy and Nathan are given in a series of flashbacks of various sorts related by Jane, who is the narrator. These are interwoven into the fabric of the story. Overall I found it a very effective way to communicate the genesis and changing quality of the relationships between Maddy, Jane and Nathan. The flashbacks also provided hints to the Empyrean and Jane's talent.
I really enjoyed The White Forest. The style of writing is beautiful. At times I felt like I was caught in a forbidding Gothic dream. The descriptive prose is often sumptuous. The novel starts off slowly but builds intensity as it reaches its crescendo. The mythology and supernatural elements in The White Forest are inventive and well-constructed. The Victorian London setting forms an ideal backdrop for the events in the story.
Jane is an odd character. If not for Maddy she never would have ventured from her home. Jane does not seem to understand the world in many ways. There are very good reasons for this. Nathan's disappearance is the catalyst for the events in the novel. We get to know him primarily through the flashback sequences since in the present of the story he is missing. Maddy again is only seen through the filter of Jane's eyes. There are times that she is an unsympathetic character (at least from Jane's point of view).
The supporting cast of Inspector Vidocq, Ariston Day, Maddy' mother, Nathan's mother and others serve pivotal roles in the story. Each push Jane forward in their ways to an ending that surprised.
Bottom Line: I was enchanted by The White Forest. It is an atmospheric feast of the supernatural, exceptional mythology, Gothic chills, and mystery.
Stop by tomorrow for an interview with Adam McOmber and a chance to win a copy of The White Forest.