Raised by an old fortune-teller within the dark veil of the Bavarian Black Forest, Rune has learned two valuable lessons: only take from the forest that which you can use, and never, never look anyone in the eye in the village. For something terrible happened in the forest long ago… and now, the whispers of a long-dead mother with a vengeful secret have come haunting. Forced to flee all she has ever known, Rune soon learns of a legacy she is bound to–one that is drenched in fear, witchcraft and murder–a birthright that stretches beyond the grave to the trees where Rune is no longer safe.
Forest of Whispers is set in Germany during the witch trials, a time when women were indiscriminately being accused of witchcraft and executed. During such a time, Rune lives on the outskirts of a village with Matilde, an old fortune-teller who is suspected to be a Hedge witch. Rumors are rumors, but when Rune makes a mistake, and at a time when the Bishop is out for blood, it sets into motion a series of events, with Rune learning of her heritage, but also being captured.
The story is told in dual perspective, with Laurentz, the heir of the Electorate being the other one. He is intrigued when she is able to heal him of a small scratch instantly; that she is breathtakingly beautiful also factors in, but basically he is smitten. He becomes the hero, rescues her from capture and helps her realize her true place. But the romance between them – not so organic. I mean, it felt more like physical attraction started it, then between all the running around the three places in the story, they somehow fell in love?
Another thing that irked me a bit is that events happened for plot convenience. Rune herself walked into imprisonment, based on some bloody stones, and endured torture just so that she can find one kid? It did serve to unearth the Bishop’s plan, but originally there was no logical reason for that event to take place. The Bishop’s backstory didn’t make much sense either. He waited 15 years to finally set his plans in motion? And lets not even begin with her homicidal ghost mother who was somehow at peace at the end of the book. Like – why did she even want her daughter dead in the first place. It was a jumble of plotlines as the book progressed and by the end, I was more like – huh. Even the village people were weird – at one time they want to tie her to a stake and at the end, they are somehow welcoming her with open arms even though they have no idea what actually went down?
The book was not such a great start to the series, to be honest. It got hung up on different plot arcs, and tying them up together that it lost rationality. But the setting is interesting, as it is something sinister and different from the regular Salem-based witch trials. One quote particularly stuck with me – about women being persecuted for witchcraft at a time when men were revered for alchemy. It drove home the point that the story was about a man’s desire to punish women for being spurned.
Received a free galley from Spencer Hill Press via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or review.