Thursday, January 17, 2013

CBR V Review #5: The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

The Woodcutter, a book I got free from the Kindle Lending Library, is a story filled with other stories.  Set in a land that mixes and matches fairy tales, it chronicles the journey of the titular Woodcutter, a character created to maintain the peace between the mortal and the fae.  Borrowing heavily from pretty much every fairy tale (and some mythology, and some Shakespeare) you've ever heard, it follows the Woodcutter as he attempts to figure out what kind of evil is menacing the 12 Kingdoms so that he can put a stop to it.

I wanted to love this book.  I adore good manipulations of fairy tales, and I'm down with mixing them together. I watch Once Upon a Time, I own volumes of new takes on old stories, love the Fable comics.  Hell, I did a multi media project on the Grimm brothers in middle school.  I wanted this to be successful.  And it's not bad, but it left me a little cold.

This book suffers from trying way too hard.  Danley wanted to cram in literally every reference and character she could, and I think that's a bit to the book's detriment.  It felt less like "hey, awesome, this character I  know is in here to advance the story!" and a little more like "oh, ok, I guess you wanted to make sure you didn't miss that one."  I feel like the tie together is a great idea, with the Woodcutter being the link between everyone, and I love the idea of a menace that challenges all the fairy tale characters.  But it's just not executed very well.  I was never afraid of the villains, and never got to the point of caring for anyone other than the Woodcutter and his wife (the latter of which is barely in it at all, but referred to frequently).  I got lost frequently as to where our protagonist was and which set of characters he was helping.  And the addition of Norse mythology and Shakespeare just felt like a distraction rather than an addition.

I wish Danley had focused a little more.  It's like a kitchen sink stew - she threw in every ingredient she could find and hoped it would make something tasty.  It left me craving something more substantial, with a little more flavor and sophistication.  It's a pleasant enough diversion, but nothing you are going to think about again after you've put it down.

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