Thanks to NetGalley and Lyrical Underground for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: Bram Stoked award-nominated author Mary SanGiovanni returns with a terrifying tale of madness, murder and mind-shattering evil…
Nilhollow—six-hundred-plus acres of haunted woods in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens—is the stuff of urban legend. Amid tales of tree spirits and all-powerful forest gods are frightening accounts of of hikers who went insane right before taking their own lives. It is here that Julia Russo flees when her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road…here that she vanishes without a trace.
State Trooper Pete Grainger has witnessed unspeakable things that have broken other men. But he has to find Julia and can’t turn back now. Every step takes him closer to an ugliness that won’t be appeased—a centuries-old, devouring hatred rising up to eviscerate humankind. Waiting, feeding, surviving. It’s unstoppable. And it’s time has come.
Horror is one of my favorite genres and I especially like reading books that fall under this heading this time of year. I’ve read a couple of Mary SanGiovanni’s previous books and have enjoyed them, but Savage Woods Just didn’t work for me.
I’m going to start with the two main characters from whose POV most of the chapters alternate. They’re likable enough, but nothing stands out about them. Julia is your ubiquitous domestic abuse victim, who’s lost in Nilhollow after her ex-boyfriend drives her off the road and tries to kill her. She goes from self-doubting, insecure damsel in distress to “I am woman, hear me roar”, which is wonderful, but I’ve read so many books with similar characters, that I was left wanting more.
I had the same feelings about Pete, her earnest, would-be beau. I thought he came off as a nice guy, but he’s someone I’ll forget about as soon as I start reading my next book. And once they’re reunited there aren’t any real sparks between them, which made their relationship unbelievable.
Which brings me to the mythology and plot. One of the things that caught my attention when I read the premise was that while the setting was the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, is that it didn’t feature the Jersey Devil which most books that are set here seem to do. Instead, the author has based her story on Native American folklore, which I should have loved, but instead found it a bit corny. Despite all the blood, gore and ripping off of heads and limbs, I didn’t find this remotely scary. The Forest King especially had me rolling my eyes and I couldn’t stop thinking of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. It was also a little confusing, and I’m still not exactly sure where the big evil originated from.
In the end, despite it’s promising premise, Savage Woods failed in its execution for me. I never emotionally connected with the characters, and I found myself laughing a couple of times during some of the gorier scenes, which is never a good thing when you’re reading horror. It is a quick read though, so if you do want to try this, you’ll be able to breeze through it in 2-3 sittings. Otherwise, I just can’t find a good reason to recommend this.