Book Review: Winterwood

Winterwood – Shea Ernshaw – Simon Pulse – Published 5 November 2019




Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

My thoughts

Don’t go into the woods…. Winterwood is part murder mystery, part spooky story about evil woods, witches and ghost stories, and part romance. I loved some things about this book and yet other, little, things kept me from really enjoying this book. It wasn’t as scary as I expected, but it will certainly appeal to readers who like a dark atmosphere in their books.

Nora Walker comes from a long line of Walker women who have special powers. Some entered dreams, others wove simple spells and charms, and a few seemed to communicate with animals. Except for Nora. While her classmates and the boys in the nearby Camp for Wayward Boys, whisper that she is a witch, she knows that she is the only Walker woman without any special skill. When, during a massive snow storm, a boy from the camp goes missing and another is dead, Nora is drawn into the mystery when she finds the missing boy in the woods and takes him home.

Okay, here is what I liked about the story

  • the magic. Nora and her family have a history of magical abilities and I loved how this is presented in the story. From simple spells and concoctions, to bigger magical powers, the magic has a very old, natural, witchy feel.
  • The tone of the story. While not overly scary, the whole book has a cold, dark feeling, reflected in the snowy setting of the story and perfectly offsetting the story.
  • The ending. It’s the ending that saved this book for me. It is rather clever and I didn’t see it coming. Avoid spoilers, if you can, because the surprise is worth it.

And here are the things I didn’t like

  • the romance. I was not onboard for the romance. At all. I’m sorry, but are we aiming for ‘stupid girl in horror movie’? No, don’t tell me if you killed someone, let’s just kiss instead. And there were no grounds for the romance. No shared secrets or common interests. No connection and then suddenly, attraction. It works in the end, but I needed more reason for it to work in the beginning.
  • The food. Or lack of it. No one ever eats anything. Aside from the camp of boys eating waffles one time, none of the characters ever cooks, or eats. They have been stuck in the mountains with no electricity for two weeks and there is not one mention of supplies or how they are cooking or what they are eating. Guess running out of food isn’t something you need to think about if you don’t need to eat at all. And no one ever feeds the dog!! I know that is just a little thing and maybe not all that relevant to the plot, but it annoyed me.

I know some of our library readers will love this title, filling a gap for dark fantasy stories.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Fantasy

Themes: Witches, magic, woods, murder, romance, relationships, missing persons, spells.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Violence: injury, murder. Dark, supernatural themes, including magic and witchcraft. Vauge sexual references. Frequent coarse language, f*** (23), sh** (28), as***** (3), pi** (5). Alcohol use.

Published: 5 November 2019 by Simon Pulse.

Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 336 pages.

ISBN: 9781534439412

Find it on Goodreads


  1. neuravinci

    It’s been on my TBR, so I’m excited to check it out – though I’m curious to see how no one eats, hah.

    • Madison's Library

      Ha. It probably won’t bother or even be noticed by most people, but my life revolves around food. Of course I read an ARC so it might have changed in a published version. I hope you enjoy it.

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