Writing

Review: The Twisted Tree

Review: The Twisted Tree

Martha spends summers in Norway with her grandmother. One day, following a catastrophic accident, she sneaks away to visit her grandmother. Her secret journey covers hundreds of kilometres and involves just a little subterfuge. When she arrives, she finds her grandmother’s home empty. The beautiful landscape she loves during summer looks a lot more sinister in winter. Worse still, there’s someone in her grandmother’s house. Stig. He heard that the place was empty and decided to stay. Over the course of the following days, in a spectacularly supernatural way, things start to unravel for Martha and Stig…

I really liked the way that Burge explored Martha’s injury and her missing eye, with it becoming central to the story. The way that Stig helped Martha to see herself as beautiful and regain her self-confidence once again made me smile.

He was very sweet. I only wish that the hints of his past that came through towards the end of the novel had been there earlier.

The way that Martha was able to read emotions in clothing was something else I really enjoyed as I don’t think I’ve seen something like that in a YA novel before. If there is a sequel it’s something I’d love to see explored. In the outside world that might have some interesting consequences, especially if someone is wearing cashmere.

The use of Nordic mythology was also very impressive, especially the way it geared up so the reader uncovered details right alongside Martha. Likewise, the Nordic landscape was utilised incredibly. The atmosphere in the cabin and its surroundings really added to the creepiness in the middle of the book.

I wish The Twisted Tree had started earlier than when Martha was heading to Norway to visit her grandmother. I wanted to know more about her, about the friend back home who she was texting on arrival, what her hobbies were other than jewellery making. Likewise, I feel like the most exciting bit of the novel was crammed up into a short space. The final showdown was very quick, compared to the long scenes in the cabin, and it disappointed me a bit. Although exciting, I felt at times that the pace towards the end took away from the emotional impact of some scenes. Once everything was tied up, the novel ended pretty quickly. I think a little more time spent on those final scenes would have been great.

I finished reading The Twisted Tree quite quickly. As another reviewer mentioned, it’s a wonderful book for a cold evening (as we’re sadly already experiencing in my area!). It wasn’t quite for me, for the reasons I’ve mentioned and perhaps as I was expecting something a little heavier on the ghosts, but I’m going to round up my review to four stars. For The Twisted Tree’s target audience, which I wonder if might be the slightly younger end of YA, this could be a beautiful read. At that age, I think I would have loved the mystery, the unresolved threads, the hopeful ending.

Thank you to Bonnier Zaffre, Hot Key Books, NetGalley and Rachel Burge for the opportunity to read this spooky tale.

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Writing

Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

Jon is away from his family and friends at a convention in Switzerland. When nuclear bombs start going off around the world, he seems to be in a tiny safe haven. A hotel out of the blast zones, with enough resources for the remaining residents to survive for months at least. There’s just one small snag. Soon after the explosions, he finds a body in a water tank. The body of a young girl. Investigations suggest that she died right around the time of the explosions… but in the panic, who would kill a girl? And why?

There’s lots to love about The Last. The narrative style is great, with the fast paced diary entries giving you a real insight into Jon’s personality. It allows secrets to be kept from the reader, so that the puzzle pieces of Jon’s life are revealed slowly rather than all at once. The relationships between Jon and the other residents of the hotel were also amazing. Scenes where he and some of his new friends relaxed, both in one of their rooms and on the roof, were beautiful and really added some happiness to a book that so easily could have been overly grim. Characters like Tomi and Dylan were fascinating too, as there was always the sense that there was something lurking beneath the surface.

The ethical questions that characters raised were also fascinating. How would you react at the end of the world if someone did something terrible? What is the appropriate punishment when the people are judge and jury? I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the reality of life post-apocalypse. There were adventures relating to food (and horrible suggestions about what some people nearby might be eating…), realistic depictions of medical care, and depictions of panic that felt real.
There are so many different ways that people could react to the end of life as we know it.

Jameson’s characters show us that there is no one right way to react to disaster and that ultimately, in the face of horrors beyond our imagination, the only way to survive is by sticking together.

While I loved the characters and hearing about Jon’s journey, some aspects of the book were a little disappointing. It felt like questions that felt so important at the beginning of the book were either left unanswered or hurriedly tied up towards the end. The mystery of the little girl, which had seemed so central at the beginning, is solved relatively quickly. Being honest, I’m not sure how much it added to the book at all in the end. Jon’s personal journey was intriguing enough on its own, without murder. References to paranormal activity are very interesting, but could have perhaps been taken a little further. At one stage a character hypothesises that they are all already dead and this could potentially be the afterlife, a place like purgatory perhaps. I found that idea fascinating and would have perhaps liked further exploration of that idea. Questions are raised about the lifestyle of those in a town Jon finds, but these are never really answered. I’m also not really sure how I feel about the slight heavy-handedness regarding who was responsible for the nuclear disaster, as the discussion on what seemed to be our own political world took me out of the story a little bit.

The Last has a great premise and characters, but for me aspects of the plot sadly detracted from its true potential.

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin Books, Viking and Hanna Jameson for the opportunity to read The Last!

3.5/5

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