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Book Review: The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Will and the Wilds

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, 47North, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Romance

Plot: Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.

Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.

Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.

Opinion:

The strong prey on the weak, it has always been so. The setting is just happenstance.”

A species called mystings have been wandering the human realm and the wildwood near Enna’s village for years. They lurk through the darkness of the trees, killing and consuming those left unprotected or caught unawares. But Enna has always been kept safe by a charm on her wrist that warns of a mystings proximity-a charm her father stole from the monster realm. So when her home is suddenly attacked by not one, but two goblers, Enna is forced into the wildwood to summon a mysting in the hopes of striking a deal. She has heard that some mystings may be persuaded into work by mortals, and Enna hopes that a mysting will kill the creatures that seem to be hunting her. But the deal Enna makes will cost her more than she planned on bargaining with, and her soul might not be the only thing up for shattering.

Mystings should never be trusted. Ever.”

The Will and The Wilds is set in a much earlier period where horses are the primary use of transportation, food is traded in a market of a small village and talk of witchcraft is either whispered about or scoffed at. Enna and her father are practically shunned by their fellow villagers due to Enna’s fascination with the mystings that plague their world, and because her father experiences frequent lapses in his memories. Though there have been reports and sightings of mystings in the wildwood near their village, many villagers assume that they do not exist or think they have left. But Enna knows full well they are still very close and prowling the woods.

The day that Enna was born, some seventeen years ago, her father and mother were attacked by a species of mysting that delights in consuming humans. With Enna still in the womb, and her mother being horribly eaten alive (ugh, I know), Enna’s father is forced to cut her out of his wife and flee. Her father then finds a way into the monster realm (where the mystings originate from) and steals a charm from a powerful creature, which he brings back to Enna and gifts to her for protection. The charm that has hung on her wrist ever since warns of a nearby mysting. With this charm, several herbs and rituals to keep mystings at bay, and a journal that has been passed down in her family which holds vital information about the monster realm and its creatures, Enna is able to keep herself and her father safe. Until, of course, their home is attacked.  From her journal, Enna learns that sometimes mystings will make a bargain with humans if a summoning circle is cast. So naturally, the poor dear casts the circle.   

“Some of the intelligent species of mysting are tricksters-these are creatures more interested in toying with mortals than feasting upon them. However, do not let that fact convince you they are docile, for often a trickster will claim something far more valuable than flesh.”

Enter: Maekallus.

Devilish mysting creature with a razor-sharp tail, a horn sword and the kiss that will do more than just take a girls breath away

…it’ll take her soul too. ❤

Maekallus is a type of mysting called a Narval, who consume human souls with a kiss. After a deal between Enna and Maekallus turns south, and Maekallus is bound to the mortal realm with his body slowly decaying into a bubbly black tar, Enna makes the decision to willingly kiss him in order to save him. But what would normally leave a human completely soulless, somehow, only a piece of Enna’s soul is given to Maekallus.

“The mortal realm will devour a mysting’s body. The monster realm will destroy a human’s mind.”

This story is such a fantastical and beautiful tale. It blends two of my favorite genres (Fantasy and Historical Fiction) into an old-timey tale where portals to realms are opened, and a human becomes bound to a monster. It has a slight Beauty and the Beast romance mixed with a Grimm fairy tale darkness. Instead of angels and demons, it’s demons and humans, and it is totally swoon-worthy! The romance doesn’t overpower this wonderful plot by making it an eye-roll fest full of forced physical contact or stomach roiling one-liners. It feels natural and purposeful, and fully adds to the story that the author tells.

“It’s nothing like Tennith’s kiss. There’s desperation in the movement of his lips. They’re rough, but in a different way. Tennith was much warmer.

Maekallus is like kissing the twilight.”

There is a slight love triangle that happens, but trust me, it is so inconsequential to the big picture and it actually adds an amusing scene to the story that I was LOVING. I found Enna to be a very proper, strong, loyal and good-hearted character who is incredibly selfless. On more than one occasion she is willing to sacrifice herself for someone else, and she exudes a determination and strength that is to be envied. Maekallus is…mysterious. As a mysting he doesn’t have a soul, so he does not understand human emotions like fear, sadness, happiness, love or regret. He finds amusement in toying with humans and delights in consuming a soul to feel the short-lived traces of their emotions.

Though I fully enjoyed this story and read it in a day, I did find that there was a lot of moments that were either left unexplained or just weren’t tied up properly. The world-building wasn’t really there, the explanation of how a portal from the monster realm opened into the human world was vague, and scenes that didn’t center on Maekallus and Enna were left off to the side without a second glance. There was a lot of exciting moments that kept me hooked throughout the read, but I do wish there was more emphasis put on descriptions and extra history/research on the mystings in proximity to humans. But with that said, I also don’t think it takes away from the story at all. The writing is beautiful and eloquent, the dialogue is a fantastic representation of the times and the story as a whole is truly beyond creative. It was a perfect blend of fantasy, romance, sweetness and darkness.

4-stars

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

  1. I agree about the world building with this one. The other thing that didn’t work for me is the whole soul thing where Maekallus was concerned, like he could *only* love her if he had a soul, something about that turned me off a bit. Overall I liked this though! Great review. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, at first I was a bit turned off that he couldn’t still love her when she took her soul back because he has the memory of what it felt like right? But then again, it made sense that he wouldn’t feel that way anymore. I thought it was an interesting twist tho. And thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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