After her father goes missing in the woods that they protect, Winter tries to seek the truth in what happened, why the wood is changing, and what it all has to do with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in this thrilling YA debut. When Winter’s dad goes missing during his nightly patrol of the wood, it falls to her to patrol the time portals and protect the travelers who slip through them. Winter can't help but think there's more to her dad's disappearance than she's being told. She soon finds a young man traveling in the wood named Henry who knows more than he should. He believes if they can work together to find his missing parents, they could discover the truth about Winter’s dad. The wood is poisoned, changing into something sinister—torturing travelers lost in it. Winter must put her trust in Henry in order to find the truth and those they’ve lost. Bobulski’s eerie debut is filled with friendship, family, and the responsibilities we choose and those we do not.
THE WOOD by Chelsea Bobulski is bound to be the next guiltiest pleasure on the market. Complete with time travel, magical woods, dark conspiracies, and attractive aristocrats, this book is deliciously indulgent. The main character, Winter, comes from a long line of guardians, but when her father is presumed to be dead, Winter must take over the family business prematurely. Having learned enough to keep the travelers and time portals safe in the wood, Winter feels helpless when a disease starts spreading and rotting the trees. Determined to find out if the decay and her dad’s disappearance are somehow connected, Winter discovers an unlikely ally and resource in a boy from the eighteenth century, a boy also driven to find his parents. Faced with a hard decision, Winter must choose if she will betray the rules of the wood for a greater purpose.
The romance between Winter and Henry is my favorite part of the book. Sure, they are star-crossed lovers with all the odds against them, but they also have an undeniable connection. Henry is a very alluring character and leading man, because in his time, chivalry has not yet died. His traditional gestures are swoon-worthy, but simultaneously, do not diminish Winter’s independence in anyway. Winter is a strong female character and well-matched with Henry. However, in order to see this relationship really develop, THE WOOD needs a sequel, or ideally a whole series to follow. There is much left to be explored in this world, and hopefully the author will have the opportunity to do this.
With that being said, though the story has an engaging premise, there are some plot points that forced me to suspend my disbelief. For instance, if it is so important that travelers not cross into the wrong time portal, why is there only one guardian per wood? And if there is only one guardian per wood, how could the council possibly agree that Winter could remain in school, creating the risk that even with her biological pull towards the wood when a traveler is present, she may not make it in time to save him/her? Also, the final showdown could have been bigger and more exciting. The antagonist talked about having so much power, but we really don’t get to see him use it that much. I wish he would have proven to be a more difficult foe.
Despite these minor grievances, I wholeheartedly forgive all of the above, because I just had so much fun reading the book. Not only could I not put it down, but I was always excited to see what would happen next. THE WOOD is absolutely a must read for fantasy lovers and fans of OUTLANDER.