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Treacherous. Evil. Dark. Dorcha Wood is all of these. And none of them.
The people of Felmore talk of Dorcha Wood in whispers, if they speak of it at all, fearing the wrath of the Cù-Sìth should their words be carried on the wind. Those murdering beasts still roam the darkness of the forest, the last remnants of the cursed Aos Sí—a race of elves long since vanished from the world.
But to seventeen-year-old Fiadh, it is home. A haven. A forest whose secrets become known only when it chooses to reveal them. Her life is one of balance until the outside world shatters it.
From the moment Fiadh set eyes on Gideon, the peaceful rhythm of her life was lost. As a new path unfolds, Fiadh confronts the reality of old hatreds, the consequences of things hidden, and the truth of who she really is.
Thank you to The Write Reads and the author for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
After a family tragedy, young Fiadh and her mother fled their home and settled in Dorcha Wood. The townspeople of Felmore fear this wood and the fabled creatures that live within it. As such, the Dorcha Wood provides a safe haven for. Fiadh only knows it as her home and the animals as her friends. She lives a quiet life of communion with nature whilst learning the art of healing from her mother. That is, until she stumbles across a sword fight in the woods and takes a risk to save a felled stranger, sending her life tumbling in a direction she didn’t expect.
I really enjoyed this fast-paced, dark fantasy inspired by Irish legend. First, the writing in this is delightful. The plot and prose are easy to follow, yet provide a rich setting without bogging the reader down in too many details. Ward provides enough description to paint an image, which allows my own imagination to run with it and fill in the gaps.
The Girl of Dorcha Wood begins in Dorcha Wood and then moves into a journey plot device. Though the story takes place in two main settings, Ward introduces the readers to creatures and events that allow for connection to the characters. It’s told mainly through an omniscient third person point of view. Most of the perspective is about Fiadh, but we also glean thoughts from her mother, Riona; Gideon, the stranger Fiadh encounters in the woods; and Lord Darragh, the sadistic lord of Felmore.
Another aspect I really appreciate is that Ward isn’t afraid to make tough choices with her characters. This allows for plenty of character development, notably for Fiadh and Lord Darragh. There’s one scene in particular that made me very upset for Fiadh. This defining event serves to open Fiadh’s eyes to cruelty in the world, for she lived a sheltered life up until the point she meets Gideon.
“A man, filled with rage and grief, can do unspeakable things to those who fall under his wrathful eye.”
I’ve seen general commentary about how the journey plot device is not necessarily everyone’s favorite. However, I think it’s well-written in The Girl of Dorcha Wood. The journey provides an opportunity for Fiadh and Gideon to get to know one another. Ward also uses it to further define Fiadh’s connection to Dorcha Wood; as a trigger to restore Gideon’s memories; and to show that trouble is brewing between humans and the Aos Sí elves, which I assume the sequels will elaborate upon.
Most of this story focuses on world and character development, but there is also some romance. There’s allusion to the fated mates (rather, destined lovers) trope and there’s a bit of instalove. In this case, instalove means more immediate attraction rather than a relationship in a record amount of time, which I think is more realistic. However, I feel that the romance was a bit rushed. I think this is due to the fast, but generally well-developed, pace of the plot. I would have preferred to see more shared history between Fiadh and Gideon in order to develop that slow burn. There’s also a turning point in their relationship that is predictable (and made me dislike Gideon). I didn’t mind the predictability, but I found it a little underdeveloped emotionally. Again, I think if the book had been a little longer to build up their relationship, the turning point would have been more emotionally deep.
Overall, though, I would absolutely recommend this book. The positives definitely outweigh my opinions about the romance aspect of this first installment. I was very much engrossed in the plot and I intend to read the rest of the series. I’m eager to learn more about Fiadh’s connection with Dorcha Wood and its non-human inhabitants.
Content warnings: blood, gore, battle scenes, mentions of torture
Reading format: Kindle e-book
About the Author
Kristin Ward is an award-winning young adult author living in Connecticut. A science and math teacher for over twenty years, she infuses her geeky passions into stories that meld realism and fantasy. Kristin embraces her inner nerd regularly, often quoting 80s movies while expecting those around her to chime in with appropriate rejoinders. As a nature freak, she can be found wandering the woods – she may be lost, so please stop and ask if you see her – or chilling in her yard with all manner of furry and feathered friends. Often referred to as a unicorn by colleagues who remain in awe of her ability to create or find various and sundry things in mere moments. In reality, the horn was removed years ago, leaving only a mild imprint that can be seen if she tilts her head just right. A lifelong lover of books and writing, she dreamed of becoming an author for thirty years before publishing her award-winning debut in 2018. Her first novel, After the Green Withered, is one of many things you should probably read.
Kristin Ward’s website and social media sites can be accessed here.