Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Jane Silverlake is an outcast in her Hampstead Heath estate; instead of being a productive part of Victorian England society, Jane stays mostly indoors of her home, not really interacting with anyone other than a few servants and her father. Then Jane meets Maddy and Nathan, and the three become inseparable. Because of their strong friendship, Jane feels comfortable in sharing her deepest secret with them: she can see the souls of objects.

Nathan, who has a deep attraction to the occult, becomes obsessed with Jane’s gift. Together, they explore her abilities through a series of experiments that slowly make Nathan less of the person that he is. The trio’s friendship is tested when both Jane and Maddy begin to have feelings for Nathan, and he becomes heavily involved with a cult looking for the entrance to another world.

Adam McOmber’s The White Forest offered an interesting look into Victorian England and the friendship of three teenagers as they transition into adulthood. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time connecting and even liking any of the main characters. When the story first begins, Nathan has already vanished and the girls start their own amateur investigation to discover his whereabouts. Jane’s first person narrative then moves choppily between the past and the present, giving the readers a taste of what their friendship was like before Nathan became involved with Ariston Day’s cult.

Ariston Day should have been terrifying, but he is such an underdeveloped character. I felt that McOmber could have done so much more with him, but he hardly had any page time until the last few chapters. I would have loved to see Ariston in action as he coaxed the London elite to join him in seeking out the passage to a world that he calls Empyrean.

To give McOmber credit where it is due, the idea of Empyrean is quite fascinating. It’s not a concept that I am overly familiar with, and I actually wish I had jotted down a few notes that I could refer back to when I found myself asking questions about Empyrean and Jane’s personal connection to that world.

I loved the idea of this story, but I found the characters to be dull, the plot disjointed, and the setting lacking in description. The White Forest didn’t have the tension and suspense that I was hoping for, and wasn’t spooky enough to make me jump at my own shadow.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Touchstone. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.