No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark.
I was granted eARC & audio ARC access to Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the approvals team at Macmillan for the access! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
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About the Book
by Kristen Ciccarelli
Publishing 1 March 2022
Wednesday Books (MacMillan)
Page Count: 400
Publishing 1 March 2022
Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
Length: 13 hours
Genre: YA Dark Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism
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No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.
When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.
Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal—her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.
With the help of Hawthorne—an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day—Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.
Haunting and romantic, Kristen Ciccarelli’s Edgewood is an exciting novel from a bold, unforgettable voice in fantasy.
My Rating: 5 Stars
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Edgewood is something of a coming of age story, something of a coming home story, and something of a reluctant hero story. Emeline can’t run from the forest of Edgewood. It shows up when she sings at all her performances. Her relationships never last. Her grandfather’s estate hasn’t sold. When she gets the call that her grandfather has gone missing from his care home she’s forced to return to Edgewood and face what she refused to believe was really living just beyond the treeline in order to get her grandfather back, but is she willing to make a sacrifice dear enough in trade for his return?
First of all, let me just get it out of the way and say that I adore the fact that this is so unapologetically a Canadian book. I’m not sure if it’s better described as urban/low fantasy or contemporary magical realism, but it’s Canadian through and through. It’s set in Quebec, Emeline is fluently bilingual in English and French, and when she’s out in the real world beyond the forest there are constant little nods to Canadian culture and things. I love it! I want to see more books like this. More books that feature Canada in an honest, subtle, yet unapologetic way. There’s nothing stereotype here, I don’t wonder if an American author chose to write a Canadian character, it’s just pleasantly familiar. I feel like we don’t see this in big publishing house urban/low fantasy, and we need to.
Ciccarelli’s writing is beautiful! I quickly found myself completely taken in by Edgewood and the forest, fell in love with the scenery and the characters alike, and didn’t want to leave. The fae characters and reluctant love interest Hawthorn reminded me of characters Ashley Poston might have written, particularly the demigod creatures of the forest in Among the Beasts & Briars, but this book is so much more mature and haunting. I loved the themes of learning the hard way where your heart truly belongs and figuring out just how much you would give up for the people you love. This book is full of people making messes when they act selfishly and making beautiful things happen when they act selflessly.
Although the atmosphere of the whole book was hauntingly beautiful, it also felt like reading a cozy mystery in that there was so much that Emeline has to figure out before time runs out, and if you’re paying attention you’ll figure it out before she does, but you don’t mind being in on the secret a little early. I did predict every horrifying, wonderful, or heartbreaking reveal before Emeline did, sometimes paragraphs before and sometimes several chapters before, but at no point did I feel like Emeline was being too blind or dense to see it. It felt like she came to those realizations exactly when a person actually in her shoes should. We as the readers have the benefit of distance.
This book has definitely made me determined to track down copies of Ciccarelli’s backlist! In fact, I’ve already added book one of the Iskari novels to my Libby wishlist as a reminder. I’ve stumbled upon a new favourite author. (And possibly one who spends time in my neck of the woods? If blustery island in the North Atlantic means what I think it means…)
To comment on the audiobook, Caitlin Kelly’s performance is spot-on. The pacing is easy to follow without feeling too slow (but not so fast us speed demons can’t turn up the playback speed and keep up.) I don’t think there was any sort of extra sound design in terms of effects added like some books I’ve listened to, but they weren’t needed. I was completely immersed in Kelly’s performance. I had no trouble following which character was speaking or thinking, but I also didn’t notice any forced efforts to make characters sound different. This was simply a well-met blend between great writing and great narration.
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Want more? Check out my review of the other book I referenced, Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston.