The Waking Forest

The Waking Forest

by Alyssa Wees


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Pan's Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She's desperate to know more and then she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its mysteries. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea's and the Witch's paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

"Bewitching, sensuous, and spiked with the unexpectedThe Waking Forest is a fever dream you won't ever want to leave."-Joan He, author of The Descendent of the Crane

"A stunning, spooky, and lyrical debut....The pacing is taut as the tension steadily ramps up, creating an atmospheric read that is impossible to put down. A sure hit for readers of edgy fantasy and fans of Stephanie Garber's Caraval or Heidi Heilig's The Girl from Everywhere."-SLJ, Starred Review

"[A] masterfully woven fantasy debut...[with] an intricate pattern crafted to twist, invert, and fall apart with exquisite precision. Into the woods like never before."-Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525581161
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/12/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 157,166
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Alyssa Wees's debut novel is The Waking Forest. She lives and writes in Chicago. To learn more about Alyssa and her writing, go to her website,, and follow @AlyssaWees on Twitter.

Read an Excerpt

Let’s start with the Witch in the Woods.
Only children could find her, the Witch, led by foxes faintly glowing in the darkness between sleeping and waking. Together they traveled through dreamland until they came to an archway like an eye half open, big enough only to crawl through.
Beneath the stars, the moon a bouquet of blue-violet bruises, the Witch lived in a castle with turrets of unnaturally thick tree trunks and broad walls of entwined branches and leaves, the battlements formed by the oversize molars of some unfathomable animal. The crisscrossed bones of the portcullis gleamed in the milky midnight light as the drawbridge of melded cloven hooves lowered over a rushing red river.
At the end of a winding hallway illuminated by row upon row of skeleton-hand sconces, each holding a steady flame that burned without the aid of wick or wax or wood, the Witch sat in a seat carved from a canine tooth nearly twice her height, situated at the very center of the castle in a wide, round room with no ceiling, the walls stretching up, up, up and curving inward, just slightly. The foxes could see her, every facet and feature, all at once, a full picture. They grinned and curled up beside her bare feet, licking their paws and waiting and watching.
A single fox with orange fur so dark it was almost red perched on the arm of her throne, watching now as a troop of bright-eyed foxes, trailed by a girl and a boy with their arms intertwined, eagerly approached the inimitable Witch.
The children could focus only on one small piece of her at a time: lips glossed in silver starlight, onyx eyes lined with gold glitter, curling black hair threaded with pearls. Kneecaps hard as diamonds, just visible beneath the hem of her scarlet dress; thin hands and long fingers, nails short and bitten. Smooth skin stretched taut over the sticks and bulbs of her bones, slick and shining with an eternal, unbreakable fever.
As the pair came closer, the Witch saw that these were not quite her usual visitors. The girl was not a child. She had seen sixteen summers, or perhaps seventeen, nearly the same number as the Witch herself. The girl had long, light hair, and blue eyes with lashes so fair, they could hardly be seen. She was a spill of sunshine in the shape of a girl, golden and firm, and she walked as if afraid she might fall right through the floor, every step delicate, tentative.
The boy was even older than the girl and was surely her brother, for though they looked nothing alike, there seemed to be a kind of magnetic trust that kept them tethered side by side. He had an angular face with lips red as wine, hair black as soot, flesh paler than a ghost moon at high noon. There were gashes on the backs of his hands, old ones and new ones, crossing in all directions, shallow ones over deep gouges, scabbed over and reopened.
The Witch curled her fingers against the arms of her throne, not quite fists—but almost. She scratched the slick ivory surface, the skirl of nail against tooth echoing around the chamber. The red-furred fox at her side lifted its head and growled. She had never growled at any of the children before.
When the Witch spoke, her voice was cream burnt at the edges, unspooling from her long dark throat like twisted obsidian silk.
“I am the Witch of Wishes,” she said. “What would you ask of me?”
The children knew exactly what to ask for, always, and that was why only they could find her. But these two were much older than those little ones, and so not content to merely receive their wish and be on their way.
“What are you?” breathed the girl, staring squarely at the Witch while her brother beside her smiled, lips pressed together as if he already knew the answer. But the longer he stood there gazing at the Witch’s castle, the more his smile hardened into a grimace. He looked at the snapping foxes and the lopsided stars and the brambly walls, and finally back at the Witch.
“What is this place?” he asked. “Where are we?”
The Witch smiled, her maw growing wider, so no one would ever guess how her atoms were held together by an unheard howl. Her world, her castle—it had not wanted to be created. It had been pulled out of her sleeping heart, and it had hurt. The pain had never faded, a perpetual poison with no known antidote. But she could not, would not collapse; her world must go on.
And even as she grinned, she did not stop scraping her throne, peeling enamel instead of her own skin, the itch inflaming her backward-beating heart.
“What would you ask of me?” she said again.
The girl grabbed her wrinkled skirt and curtsied, a movement quick and clean, her cream-curls bouncing around her shoulders.
“I wish to stay here with you,” said the girl in a rush. “I want to grant wishes to those who need them most. I want always to live in a dream.”
The Witch hesitated; no visitor had ever asked something like this of her before. It was the one wish she knew she should not grant—this world was her own, and she must live here alone. For the girl this was only a resting place, a sighing place, its gate open to her once and then never again. To stay would be to sleep, neither dead nor alive, on and on until the end of time.
No, the Witch decided, she would not grant the girl’s wish.
But the girl did not have to know that.

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The Waking Forest 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alyssa Wees’s book will take you on a masterfully crafted adventure. You will never see what is coming! The writing is beautiful.
Amy Smith Carman More than 1 year ago
Title: The Waking Forest Author: Alyssa Wees (Debut book) Release Date: March 12, 2019 Genre: YA, Fantasy Series?: Stand alone LGBTQ?: Unclear People of Color?: Unclear (fantasy worlds) Bechdel Test: Yes! Trigger Warnings: None I received The Waking Forest as an eARC in exchange for an honest review. This is a fantastic YA fantasy with a fairy tale vibe (maybe some Snow White remnants?) as well as a fae world with witch wishes, sphinxes, and more. The women are strong and fantastic characters that I adored. The Princess does not wait to be rescued, but she does have a great family and strong squad by her side. It's a fun story where one never quite knows what is real and what is imagined - both are quite extraordinary. I also thought the concept of the double heart was the most beautiful and perfect way to describe the extra sense of magic that some are born with. The world itself can be very cruel and Wees did a fantastic job describing it and making the reader feel the urgency of the heroine's problems. There was also the beautiful moral of how families come in all shapes and sizes. It can include those whose blood you share but can also be chosen. The way the world is woven together feels like magic! Alyssa Wees is a master writer and I look forward to all her future works! It reminds me of Hazel Wood, a novel-length version of Language of Thorns, or the Fairies of Dreamdark. I would recommend it for lovers of fairy tales, fae worlds, and fantasy as well as fantasy in general. I would recommend this for all ages.
Brenna Clark More than 1 year ago
First, I want to thank NetGalley for this ARC! I saw the cover and read the synopsis and was 100% ready to lose myself in the fantasy. This book exceeded all of my hopes, and was like three stories in one. We are thrust into this narrative spun with golden threads of description. I swear, this author weaves perfect pictures of places you could have never been and things you could have never seen with the most vibrant and sometimes grotesque verbiage. Things like ‘the color of a picked scab’ or talk of a ‘spider’s sky’ that is laced with silk— it was so beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. We start out with the Witch of the Woods, then are brought to Rhea and her family, then lastly to a princess. The way these three are woven together are like a priceless, centuries old tapestry, and you are kept guessing until the last act of the story when everything is laid bare. There is magic, fear, love, and mystical beings, but also some standout nuggets of wisdom. Some of my favorites dealt with the focus on family; not just blood relation, but how important your chosen family is as well, and the message of the imperativeness of being yourself; each small facet, each mask that you wear. You can be small, yet powerful. You can be frightened, but stand tall. You don’t ever have to be one thing in life. You should taste everything that it has to offer, and scream. Make your voice heard no matter how much it may scare those around you. I can’t wait to see what this author does next, and I will gladly follow her into the Woods.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THE WAKING FOREST was nothing like I was expecting it to be. It was a TRIP, but in the best of ways. To be honest, I see-sawed between 5 and 4 stars once I got around the 60% mark, but the moment I read the final line, I hit 5 stars without a second thought as a giant grin spread across my face. The first half of this book was amazing. 5 stars hands down the whole way up to the midpoint. The voice was unique and gripping. The prose was EXQUISITE—I truly don’t think I’ve ever read a book that uses such intriguing similes and metaphors that are perfectly analogous to what’s being described. As a writer myself, I always appreciate beautiful, lyrical lines, though I feel that readers of all types will find beauty in the words on these pages. Though the book did have a few flaws in my eyes that made me consider dropping its rating—a little telling at times, a plot that completely shifted and became a little confusing after the midpoint, worldbuilding and ideas that weren’t fully developed—I ended up with a 5 star rating because it was such a great and original STORY. Despite the confusing shift in worlds, I felt transported. I felt like I was a young girl again, sitting on the floor in my classroom as the teacher read to the class. And it was that mysterious and gripping storytelling coupled with fantastic writing that had me flipping through pages as fast as I could. Alyssa Wees has become an instant-read for me, and I can’t wait to devour another one of her books in the future.
marongm8 More than 1 year ago
The Waking Forest in my perspective is when Chronicles of Narnia meets into the woods with secrets and as you read on, you will immediately be pulled into the action. It's hard not to follow Rhea's path to her curiosity of the Waking Forest and when you meet the witch and learn about her, it will force the reader to find out not only what happens but learn about the relationship between Rhea and the witch and whose side will they choose and how will it affect the whole story. This book will do wonderful in our YFantasy collection and we look forward to adding it to our library collection. That is why we give this book 5 stars!
Kaleena 5 months ago
Spooky Season is upon us my friends, and The Waking Forest is a beautifully written fantasy debut that is sure to get you in the mood! Wees weaved fairy tales, dreams, and nightmares into a lyrical tale that flows on the page and takes on a life of its own. “What waits for a kiss that does not come? What dreams and dreams until it comes undone?” This is one of the most atmospheric books I have read in awhile. Wees’ writing is beautiful and descriptive, and I almost feel like I am in a fever dream while reading it (much like when I read Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton – another witchy book I recommend). This book is beautiful but requires some patience. The book has dual points-of-view and stylistically are night and day from one another. The Witch’s narrative is more lyrical and is in third person, whereas Rhea’s perspective is in first person and the prose is less purple (but still beautiful). There are two very different stories being told and I didn’t really settle into the narrative until things started weaving together around the halfway point. I have a lot of “wtf is going on?” notes; I encourage you to just read the book and trust things will slide into focus. “I can think of nothing more terrifying than a dream like this, which is only in your heart and cannot hurt you, until it suddenly reaches out and touches you.” There’s a lot I would like to say about the plot itself and how much I enjoyed it once it came together, but I really think it is best for you to go in as blind as possible on this one. As someone who oftentimes struggles with multiple POVs, I found the alternating perspectives to work here and the pacing of the story is done well. The story is beautiful and reads like a lucid dream but none of the characters never really felt real to me. There are moments of sisterhood and just daily life with the family that was heartwarming, but they never felt like real people to me. The story itself was what I was invested in and drove the narrative forward for me. I loved the anxiety rep in this book and how supportive the family is of their mental struggles. It was also refreshing to have a young adult fantasy story where the parents are present for once, and there is a f/f side relationship mentioned near the end. “All things end, eventually. Even the very best stories. And the worst of them too.” This is a book that I think will get better with re-reads. I spent the first half of this book utterly confused and wonder how much more I will enjoy it now that I know the ending. The story is beautiful and Wees is definitely an author to watch as I am sure she will continue to write atmospheric and lyrical stories. I don’t think the writing style will be for everyone, but for those of you who love poetic writing, this debut is a great fall read to get you in the spooky mood. Content warnings: anxiety, dead body, death, gore, grief, hallucinations Representation: anxiety, f/f relationship Many thanks to Delacorte for sending me an eARC via Netgalley for my honest review (I read my pre-ordered hardback)!
Devinkye00 10 months ago
I'm just going to be honest, I did not like this book at all, which is super disappointing because the cover is absolutely gorgeous and the premise sounded very interesting. However, once I got started reading, it was definitely akin to taking some sort of hallucinogenic drug because, try as I might, I could not follow what was happening at all. Once I felt like I got the hang of the premise, it would turn out to be something totally left-field and left me confused. The urge to reread parts of the this book due to non-understanding occurred often, which did not make me happy. By the time I reached 60% of the book, I had to DNF it. I had read that far into the book when I eventually found myself not caring a bit about the characters or what happened to them (not to mention I was still hella confused about the plot). I just didn't have any sort of reason to continue reading this book. I will say that the reason I awarded 2 stars to this book was the prose itself. The writing was gorgeous and haunting, so gorgeous and haunting in fact that that was a majority of the reason for my confusion, I'm sure. The descriptions were really weird and odd, and honestly if I have to reread a sentence more than a few times to understand what it is you are describing- I'm going to lose interest fast, which is unfortunately what happened here. Overall, I would probably not recommend this book if you are like me and want the plot to make sense. I understand that the plot doesn't have to make sense in all books such as thrillers and the like, but in a YA book that's not a thriller, I have a bit of a problem with that. Sad that this one is my first DNF of 2019.
apeape More than 1 year ago
You know how sometimes you get lucky and you read a book when you're in just the right mood for it? This was that book for me. I really, really enjoyed this book. I'm not going to try and explain the story, but I'll say it is deeply steeped in dreams, and I felt like I was dreaming through the whole thing. At first, the story goes back and forth between a young woman living near the beach with her family, and a witch living in a dark fairy tale type castle in an enchanted forest. Then a little more than halfway through, the stories meet up and have a baby, and we watch this baby grow into a new story. Is it confusing? Sure! But that's okay, dreams are confusing. Is the language lovely and descriptive, while occasionally falling into a purple prose word salad? You betcha! But it totally worked for me, because it made it feel more creepy and dreamlike. There's some definite creepy menace feels going on, sometimes strong, sometimes more background, but always there. A great read for when you don't really care about the story making complete sense, you just want to be drawn into some atmosphere.
OpinionatedTurnip More than 1 year ago
What I Liked The absolute spooky ambiance of this entire book is unspeakably beautiful. It has an otherworldly quality about it from the get-go, even though it's set in a contemporary-ish setting at first. The back-and-forth chapters between Rhea and the Witch are both equally compelling. The descriptions. are. gorgeous and are what make the book so dang spooky. It sort of reminds me of an 80's era fantasy movie that unapologetically bombards you with weird stuff, never tries to explain it, and just sweeps you along in this encompassing out-there ambiance. And you go, because it's fantastical and scary and even though you have no idea what's really happening, you need to know how it ends. What I Would Have Liked to See More name variance? The sisters and parents all have names that start with R, and it took me a very long time to be able to tell some of them apart (especially Raisa and Renata). My Favorite! That sphinxes find dad jokes to be the pinnacle of comedy. TL;DR Rhea lives in a house by the sea with her parents and her sisters--and an impenetrable sentient Darkness in the attic. In order to figure out what the Darkness is and what it wants, Rhea will have to lose, and regain, her family, her home, and herself.
alyssama121 More than 1 year ago
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* The Waking Forest is an experience! I had no idea what was going on for the first half of the book, but I had my guesses and trusted the author to get me to where I needed to go for the story to make sense. I really enjoyed how strange and dark everything was; the mood was absolutely perfect for what was going on and the writing is absolutely GORGEOUS. It is expertly crafted language and I would read it just for the beautiful lines, to be honest. Luckily, the plot is pretty interesting too. We follow two characters: Rhea, a girl who has living nightmares and the Witch: a girl who grants children wishes. They are each struggling with a strange visitor into their world and try to figure out what he wants and how to get rid of him so they can keep living their lives. I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding both these stories and had a fun time guessing what was going on. However, the story itself fell apart a little once we find out what’s going on, unfortunately. Up until then, the world building and characterization were fantastic, but the pacing started to feel rushed and things didn’t seem as fleshed as they were in the beginning part of the book. I kept getting lost as to what was happening and how everything was connected. However, the beginning of the book did such a good job in establishing the characters that I was still satisfied by the ending and pulled in enough by them to make it through to the end. I would not give this book to a reluctant reader; things are very confusing for most of the book and you have to trust the story and author that it will work out and start making sense; I can see this being very frustrating for someone just starting out reading. Fans of weirder sort of stories or dark fantasy will enjoy this, I think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Waking Forest is a young adult fantasy debut by Alyssa Wees. The world building is good, the characters are well developed, the writing is beautiful, and the overall story (though dark and creepy) is really good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An atmospheric and excellent debut! I couldn't put it down. Can't wait to see what Alyssa Wees does next!
TheLiteraryPhoenix More than 1 year ago
Once upon a time, there was a princess.  This princess possessed magic, but needed to hide it because her grandfather the king kept people like herself in chains.  She survived for a while living two lives, but then she was discovered, and faced with death or enslavement, the princess made her own choice.  This is the story that Rhea Ravenna hears in the darkness of her attic, and it is a story that will change her life. At the beginning, I loved The Waking Forest.  Alyssa Wees's writing is a little flowery, but I like that aspect.  Part One weaves between the Witch in the Forest who grants wishes, and young Rhea Ravenna and her sisters.  Both of these worlds were interesting and I liked them.  The voices were distinctly different and the pacing between each with great.  Early in The Waking Forest, I thought I was going to love this novel. Enter Part Two. For me, Part Two felt like it was written by an entirely different person.  The toy box of characters and world building elements was dumped on the table.  It was quickly paced.  Where the contemporary was interesting and grounded in Part One, and the fantasy was rich and blossoming... now we're entirely in fantasy, everything is getting done very quickly, and the characters are still behaving fully like contemporary characters.  All the goals are accomplished easily.  The magic system is not really explained.  The beautiful language from the start of the book is gone.  Part Two was jarringly different, and it was not the fantasy I was promised in Part One. I didn't believe that things would have worked out for Rhea.  I felt like the sister dynamic was lost.  The magic system was assumed rather than explained.  I can't get past how much it felt like two different books, and I felt hugely let down. Many people compare this to The Hazel Wood, and that's a fair comparison.  It's the same type of story.  The Waking Forest is more magic in the beginning, with a better integration, but people who enjoy the pacing and beat of contemporary YA will probably prefer this one to The Hazel Wood. At the end of the day, The Waking Forest was not for me, but I believe it will find a good audience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written with a twisty plot, The Waking Forest is a magical dream that you won’t want to wake up from!
thegeekishbrunette More than 1 year ago
eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley The Waking Forest follows young Rhea and her visions of a witch in a forest. A boy comes and visits her in the darkness of her family's attic and stranger things continually happen. She must uncover the truth before its too late. I was pretty hyped to read this book and in some ways it lived up to that hype and in other ways it fell short. This book is categorized as young adult/teen but I would say it is more middle-grade. The plot of the book was intriguing and the way she wove in a lyrical story in between was magical. The book is written with two perspectives and eventually they collide into one which is very unique and something I have not seen before. Usually I am one to complain about slow pacing but the problem for me was that in this case it felt rushed and some of the plot was not fleshed out enough. The characters were also a let down for me. I didn't feel connected to them and that killed a few of the plot twists. There wasn't enough background to any of the characters, including Rhea. Overall, I liked the plot of the book and it was different than others I have read before but the lack of character development is what ultimately lost me.
tpolen More than 1 year ago
With a description that reads nearly like a fairy tale and a magical cover, do I really need to explain why I wanted to read this book? The writing is lush, beautiful, and velvety, with imagery that will transport you to another place. Some lines I re-read several times because of the way the author weaves words together. There are basically three stories in this book, and the chapters alternate. Somewhere around the middle or so, it's revealed how they're connected. Rhea and her family are adorable and quirky, and the Darkness in the attic is spine-tingling and alluring. It's a nice touch. With the first half of the book, I was all in and just wanted to find a secluded corner with no interruptions. And then I got to the second half, and it lost me. It has the feel of a fairy tale, but I felt untethered, and unsure of what was real in the story. Even the dialogue was off, sounding more juvenile, and I found myself skimming the pages instead of savoring them as I had in the first half of the book. Many other reviewers loved the dreamy, storybook feel of this novel, but I need to feel more grounded in my reading, with a better grasp of the plot. Even though it turned out not to be for me, I'd still recommend this book because of the extraordinary writing, and I wouldn't hesitate to read another novel by this author in the future. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
Midnightreadingmom More than 1 year ago
Thank you Netgalley for this ARC! “A dream can’t hurt me, though. Can it?” First, I have to say that the writing is beautiful and so descriptive. It paints a vivid, magical picture of such a unique world. It’s almost poetic. The cover is also gorgeous and completely matches the book. It is what made me want to read it from the start. However, I found myself quite confused at some parts of this book. At first it was intriguing, but towards the end I just felt lost. Part one was easier to follow and had me completely wanting to read more and more. But when I hit part two, I had to keep rereading paragraphs to try to understand what was going on. The transition wasn’t as smooth as I hoped it would be. I’m sure some will love it, but unfortunately I did not. I do think this author has amazing potential though!
Kayla13 More than 1 year ago
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars The writing is beautiful, however it really lacks depth. By depth, I mean that the character development and world building seemed to lack and be one dimensional. It has a good plot, but could have been delved into more to make this amazing. I do like the plot twist that happened mid way in the book, but once it occurred, I became very bored because the mystery of the book was gone.