The White Forest by Adam McOmber

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Blurb

Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable and frightening gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. She finds solace in her only companions, Madeline and Nathan, but as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by jealousies and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

Publisher and Release Date: Touchstone, September 2012

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Victorian England
Genre: Historical/Paranormal Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Lizzie English

Jane has a terrible secret and only her two best friends know the truth about her. She’s not a witch, she’s not a magician, but she’s something else, something of the Earth, almost, and she can see the souls of objects. It’s a promising start – an odd power, and it takes a lot of explaining through the novel. It’s pretty much in this very point that the author had lost me. Something new and unheard of, hearing the souls of man made objects? What could that lead to? How does it manifest? That questions that I kept having didn’t really get answered through the book. It never really gives an orgin for her powers.

Everything that Jane is involved in leads to disaster. She’s isolated and living in a house where her only family is barely around and the servants are scared of her; she’s even isolated from her friends. Her best friend Madeline is scared of her and unfortunately Madeline can’t stand to touch her. When someone touches Jane they experience seeing the world as Jane does where everything has a soul and it’s not pleasant. That leads to some awkward moments: how can you have a friendship of that nature when you can’t even touch?! This is in the time of Victorian London where aristocratic girls and women are each others bosom companions, often lacing arms and hugging. Her other best friend, Nathan, is the opposite; he craves her touches and experiences. It’s Nathan that story centers around, Nathan’s obsession with Jane’s power and finding out the answers that she can’t give him.

At the start of the novel, Nathan has gone missing. He had just returned from war and joined a cult that promised that he would understand Jane’s power even more.  There are a number of twists and turns in the story, involving him and what exactly happened when he went off to war, because he wasn’t involved in the fighting. He gets stuck in a monastery that just happens to worship a long lost Earth goddess.  The White Forest  was easy to picture, but it reminded me a lot of The Time Machine by HG Wells as Nathan goes into the future complete with subhuman primates. But what is never explained is Why? Primates? What is this place? How was it suddenly inaccessible one minute, and then all the characters are there the next? The description of the White Forest though is lovely, it’s one of the few things that’s a saving point. It’s not what you would expect but it holds a certain beauty that makes the reader realize why it was so wanted.

The romance in the book is pretty straightforward. Jane thinks that because Nathan is so attracted to her power that he is in fact in love with her, but it’s not like that at all and eventually gets thrown in her face in the worst way. That was pretty hard to read, even though the author has foreshadowed it, especially with how Jane is treated, but to read her actually going through it is heartbreaking. But this shows Jane’s naiveté in relation to her secluded life. Any slight form of affection shown toward her is almost guaranteed to be seen on her part as love. It makes you feel sorry for Jane and what she has to do in order to finally be accepted towards the end of the book. There are a lot of awkward moments in the novel, especially revolving anything involving potential love and Jane. It makes the reader wonder if the goal of the author was to show that Jane was unlovable and how no one understood her. It makes the reader feel sorry for her more than anything, but frustrated at the same time.

The White Forest is really captivating as it has an interesting plot and it’s very unique. Taking into account my misgivings I could only give it a three star rating, but that doesn’t mean that others won’t enjoy it more.

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