Review: In Fallen Woods (Witches of Vardyn – Book 1) – R. N. Merle

You guys – I’ve just finished reading a great book! I am so grateful to R.N. Merle for giving me a review copy of In Fallen Woods in exchange for an honest review – thank you so much! I love the cover – it fits the story so perfectly! Whatever you expect while looking at it, the book will make it happen. Now, let’s dive straight into the review!

In a dark part of the forest, unbeknownst to the people living in the town nearby, lives Darklin, a sixteen year old witch, with her mother Gressyl. They have sworn an oath to a secret coven and practice dark magic, punishing the people around them for living their way of life. Their hatred for humanity is the only driving force in their existence, and they are certain true love and kindness do not exist – people must therefore be punished for their wicked and selfish ways. One day, Darklin has a fateful encounter with a beautiful and kind young man, and all that she has been taught begins to feel wrong. Which path will she choose – and can the darkness within her truly be overcome?

I was really captivated by Darklin’s story! She is taught by her mother that ‘normal’ people are vain, shallow, wicked and deceiving, and that true love and kindness do not exist. Her mother is cruel and cunning, and never shows any sign of kindness towards her – she is only using Darklin in her quest to torment the people living in a village nearby even further. Not only that, she is also abusive towards Darklin, especially in the first third of the book, which is why this part was kind of harder to read for me than the rest.

It is made clear that up until this point in the book, Darklin has not been shown any signs of love or how a family treats each other, and she has not been allowed to see other people and how they live. Like a true witch, she is only allowed to be awake during the night, and may leave the house only to collect water and herbs or bugs for Gressyl’s spells. Since she is not shown anything else of the world, it makes sense that Darklin agrees with Gressyl’s ways in the beginning of the story and finds pleasure in casting curses on other people, but this part was a bid hard to digest, I must say.

However, one day Darklin makes a fateful encounter, which not only changes the story for the better, but also changes Darklin’s life completely. Not only is she captivated by the beauty of the stranger, she also learns of his kindness. In the beginning, Darklin thinks what she sees in him and his family is only what she has been taught – that beauty and kindness are only deceiving her and trying to lure her into a trap – but she soon learns that she has been wrong, and questions her mother’s teachings. Is it possible that people can be kind, and families can truly love each other?

I loved the way Darklin changes for the better, and that she begins to question what she has learned all her life herself; not because someone else wants to makes her see, but because she herself starts to look at the beauty of the world around her. Though John, the boy she met, is helping, too. I loved the way their friendship started to blossom, slowly but thoroughly, and that she also met a true friend in Bess, John’s sister. I also loved Mrs Day, another kind character in the book, and how she tried to help Darklin to the best of her abilities.

Together, they make for a nice contrast to the rather dark beginning of the book, which I enjoyed a lot. I also liked the attention to detail in the story – the historical parts seem quite accurate, and it was nice seeing John tending to his farm and Bess looking after the household and the little ones. The rich details of the language make the story come alive while you read it and utterly captivate you. I often envisioned myself in the dark woods beside Darklin, or watching John next to her through the branches of the trees.

I also liked the ending of the book – how it is truly happy but also holding back enough to make you looking forward to what’s coming next. There are still a few questions that need to be answered, and I’m very much looking forward to see how it is all coming together, and how much Darklin finds out about her past.

One thing that I found a bit odd, or hard to believe, was that Darklin spent most of the days away with Bess and John, but also the nights, since she was supposedly casting Gressyl’s spells on the people of Fallen Oak. When did she sleep? Also, how did she deceive Gressyl so easily, especially in the beginning, when her powers were still very much alive? Since this is a fantasy story, however, I probably shouldn’t care that much about it, it’s just something I’ve noticed. There was also a short passage when John tells Darklin a story that is being told among the folk when the tenses are mixed together, from past to present, if I remember correctly, but it was only for a few short sentences, and didn’t bother me too much – I just thought I would mention it to make my review complete. Now that I’m reading my review through though, I notice that I have this tendency as well, so it would probably better for me not to say anything lol.

Other than these minor points, I really enjoyed this book, and especially Darklin’s character development. In a way, you could even call it a coming of age story – although Darklin is not grown up by the end of it, she has gone through so much and learned a lot, much more than any other person might during his or her lifetime, which proves her progress.

Therefore I would totally recommend In Fallen Woods to you – if you are looking for a dark fantasy about witches, with a little bit of romance, and a lot of friendship and family in it, this should totally be your next read! Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve read this book and what you think of it (and my review)!:)

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