Book Review: In The Dark In The Woods – Eliza Wass

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The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark.

Castley Cresswell has always is one of The Cresswells. In her town they are outcasts, living in the middle of the woods without modern appliances, clothing or even friends. Along with her brothers, Castley has lived as her father and his messages from god have instructed, although certain things aren’t adding up and as her father becomes increasingly cruel Castley begins to question the world around her.

This was a novel on my Christmas list this year, I’d heard good things about it (although in the US it’s called The Cresswell Plot) it seemed dark with interesting family dynamics. There was also discussion of religious extremism and the lack of challenge towards the children’s father and his methods of ‘punishing them’.

The novel has a combination of mystery, thiller and teenage rebellion. There are five Cresswell children, all under strict rules and ‘guidance’ from their father, including the fact that the family will be God’s chosen people when the time comes, meaning they do not need communication with the outside world. It isn’t until they are forced to go to school, be separated and to be around other young people that they begin to test the limits and see the world for themselves, and rightfully so.

I loved the character of Castley, I loved the natural development of her character as a young woman and as a teenager. There are some elements that are true of all teenagers like  the sweet taste of rebellion, but for Castley this is mixed with a real element of danger. She quickly realises that the danger is no longer from God, if there ever was any, but that her father’s forms of punishment are not the norm. The fact that there is a sense of fear as well as the rebellion makes it more realistic. Castley has obviously lived under her father’s rules for her entire life. A new way of living is both full of fear and hope.

That said, I didn’t want to give the novel 5 stars, simply because I wanted more. I enjoyed the ending but felt that it was very rushed and left a lot of questions unanswered, I just felt incredibly frustrated with the lack of information at the end. I loved the description, the ideas behind the novel and the writing as a whole was brilliant. I would love a second novel to follow on from the ending!

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