Friday 27 May 2022

The Wolf, The Walnut and the Woodsman by Gabriel Hemery


"Codrina, the greatest mortal of all time, was born a humble woodsman’s daughter. Pursued by the ultimate darkness, the young girl is powerless, except for her budding green talent. This is a story of her struggle against evil as she befriends a great wolf, undertakes a perilous journey, and learns to harness the power of nature. Once buried in ancient scriptures, this brave retelling reveals the truths behind the creation of our most celebrated legend."

This novel is set in the mythical land of Askraland. Hemery has created a very convincing mythical world, complete with a fictional map at the beginning, which I always think is a nice touch in this type of epic fantasy tale. The world includes familiar elements alongside aspects that are less familiar. I particularly liked the elements that were similar to reality yet different enough to feel like genuine parts of an alternate reality (for example, The Abstinence is an equivalent to our Lent, icicledrops replace snowdrops and lapinettes are the equivalent of rabbits). There's a whole invented religion that seems like the cousin of Christianity, a complicated game of coins and cards called Wuka that seems to be a much more elaborate version of Paper, Stone, Scissors and woodcraft competitions. A mythical wolf features, as do ancient walnut trees.

Against this backdrop,  Codrina escapes after her parents are killed, but finds herself pursued by her parents' murderers. She finds sanctuary with a religious community, then endures a hard journey and time working in the silver mines before returning home. Will she then be able to fulfil her destiny, and is she in fact the hero foretold in ancient prophecy?

Hemery is a woodsman, and it shows in the narrative, with Codrina even at the age of 8 developing skills in using an axe and billhook and the many descriptions comparing things to forests:

"The buildings crowded the night sky, leaning over the narrowing space towards their neighbours, like under-thinned trees in a neglected forest"

However, although I was very impressed by the world building and the strong female characters, I felt a little underwhelmed by this novel. At 250 pages, it felt slight compared to many books in the genre (which often stretch to three volumes of over 500 pages each, certainly judging by the books that Crafty Green Boyfriend reads). I felt the reader would appreciate more detail about the perils of the various journeys and the relationship between Codrina and her mortal enemy. Also, the wolf could certainly have been a more developed character. However, it's an interesting story, set in a well imagined alternate world, with thought-provoking things to say about our relationship with the natural world. 

The Wolf, The Walnut and The Woodsman by Gabriel Hemery published by Wood Wide Works. 

Disclaimer: I received a free e-book of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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