Welcome to the Village of Arnn, a rural area not too far from NYC where time and legend seem to stand still. Honoria can’t help noticing the differences between her new classmates and her old way of life in the city, a life which was destroyed along with her parents when the Twin Towers collapsed. She imagines her current situation reflected in an imaginary fashion magazine showcasing her new friends’ rustic style vs her old preppie ways at the private school she used to attend. Without her faimiliar school uniform she wonders how to fit into this new environment. When the opportunity comes to visit the supposedly haunted Witchwood Hollow, taunted by her two new buddies, she disappears into the foliage at once feeling comforted yet panicky until she finds her way home. The woods seem to call to her with enticement despite her inherent fear.
Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, the author of Escape From Witchwood Hollow sets up this haunted tale starting in the 1650s when Lady Clifford is eluding capture and certain death for killing her neighbor. Unremorseful, she builds a life for herself in the woods with her magic, determined to trap unsuspecting visitors to provide new provisions and perhaps keep her company. In this way she finds a phusband who eventually deserts her so their child can have a more normal upbringing in the village. Two hundred years later, Albertine Slack has the opportunity to come to the states from her native England to live with her relocated father and marry the neighboring farmer’s son. Eager to join her dad, she attempts to walk to the farm only a mile from the village, but the woods beckon and she becomes entrapped, unable to find a way out. Eventually she meets up with others in a similar situation and, despite their varying backgrounds from different eras, they form a family. Somehow Mierek intertwines the centuries and characters into a cohesive whole as the details of the Witchwood Hollow folklore are revealed.
First off, Mierek is an promising storyteller with a vivid imagination and a pleasant writing style which keeps the reader engaged. Escape from Witchwood Hollow has a touch of Dahl, a pinch of Irving, and some aspects of Lost Horizon’s Shangri La. The lyrics to Hotel California kept playing through my head – “You can check in any time you’d like, but you can never leave.” That being said, I felt this book was an excellent first draft, but at 179 pages there were an additional 50 to 100 pages available to flesh out the plot and turn an engaging tale into one which was truly gripping. While the main character was well defined, I felt the supporting cast could have been better developed to provide plausible motivations for their behaviors. Even the witch was sketchy, with details of her past dropped incidentally throughout the story. Besides Honoria, Allison was the other unambiguous character who provided a engrossing glimpse into the legend. With a little more plot and background information, some of the questionable events would have made more sense. I also found the surprise ending kind of abrupt as if the author thought “That’s all I have to say, let’s wrap this up.” While I wasn’t crazy about the culminating events, I did understand why the author went in that direction and it definitely fit the tone of a paranormal story meant for high school and young adult audiences.
Excellent effort and I look forward to future books which, I am sure, will be honed to fascinating perfection.
Three and a half stars and a thank you to the author for providing an ARC of her book in exchange for an honest review. This post also appears on Goodreads.