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The White Forest: A Novel Hardcover – September 11, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
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Editorial Reviews


“This delightful, sometimes spooky, always intelligent and exciting novel is truly a work of an imagination at the height of its (often astonishing) powers. Adam McOmber takes us deep into a magical world that resembles our own, one that is set in Victorian England, which it's clear from page one was meticulously researched, and doesn't release us until long after we read the last paragraph. . . . The White Forest is a very satisfying, always suspenseful and surprising page-turner . . . and beautifully written too. Adam McOmber has offered us a work of fiction that is unlike any other I have read, and I'm recommending it to every reader I know.”

(Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts)

“[A] dark and gothic debut . . . evoking the dark weight of doomed love as well as the spiritualist craze that fascinated so many Victorians.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Teeming with as many twists and turns and shadowy characters as the narrow Victorian streets in which the tale is partially set, McOmber creates a . . . supernatural mystery that bombards the senses with rich dialogue and imagery.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"McOmber's debut novel has a Victorian setting but is more truly situated in the surreal landscape of an alternate reality....The plot has sudden twists leading to an unanticipated conclusion." (Library Journal)

“In his clever and beguiling pastiche of a first novel, McOmber explores the nexus between the natural and the artificial, the intangible and the concrete in coal-fouled Victorian London. … Commandingly erudite and imaginative, McOmber meshes myth, the occult, and nineteenth-century technological advances in an uncanny and captivating gothic tale that aligns ancient mysteries with the startling revelations of newly harnessed electricity, and rigid social and sexual mores with epic yearning.” (Booklist)

“An inventive gothic tale that tracks the alarming and inexplicable adventures of three friends caught in a love triangle complicated by occult powers and the accelerating force of the industrial revolution.” (Kansas City Star)

“A moody, gothic tale full of hypnotizing twists and turns that transports readers to a world that is part real, part fantasy and definitely plays with the mind.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

“A dark, haunted and haunting parapsychological journey into a mysterious underworld of Victorian England… McOmber’s debut novel is well written, chilling and spooky, and the plot is highly original.” (Historical Novel Society)

The White Forest drips with the dark and gothic chills of Victorian London. Adam McOmber will keep you up nights with this eerie tale that grafts mystery to myth. A spooky and original novel.” (Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Centuries of June)

"Adam McOmber's voice is exquisitely fresh … at once fierce and sensual." (Brian Leung, author of Take Me Home)

The White Forest reminds me of what I love about H.P. Lovecraft. Adam McOmber's imagery is so visceral and strangely real, and his story so inventive; a plain old narrative is hard enough to pull off on its own, but creating a whole new world within the reality of Victorian England? Wow.” (Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish)

“What other novelist could take a Victorian gothic setting, the most obscure elements of medieval cosmology, a sinister secret society, and an old-fashioned love triangle to produce, in tautly elegant prose, something so delightful and utterly unique? The White Forest is much more than a novel: it is a magic lantern, casting dark and flickering pictures from other worlds. I wish I had written it myself.” (Camille DeAngelis, author of Petty Magic and Mary Modern)

About the Author

Adam McOmber teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and is the associate editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika. Stories from his collection, This New and Poisonous Air, have been shortlisted for Best American Fantasy and nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in 2012. Visit AdamMcOmber.com.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451664257
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451664256
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,764,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam McOmber is the author of The White Forest: A Novel (Touchstone 2012) and This New & Poisonous Air: Stories (2011). His work has recently appeared in Conjunctions, Kenyon Review and Fairy Tale Review.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Written in beautiful, 19th century-sque language, full of visually sumptuous sceneries and vividly depicted, memorable characters, The White Forest is a gorgeous gothic novel that combines elements of historical fiction, fantasy, horror and romance.

Set in Victorian England, this seductive and mysterious novel tells the story of one young man's sudden disappearance and the frantic search that ensues. The well-born son of Lord William Ashe, Nathan, goes missing. It happens not long after Nathan -- fascinated by the occult and metaphysical realities -- gets involved with the Temple of the Lamb. A daring and spirited soul, Nathan is always searching for answers, trying to look beyond what's instantly visible, experimenting, opening himself to the supernatural. Jane's extraordinary talents seem to have only deepened his curiosity for the otherwordly things. Now, Jane Silverlake, one of Nathan's closest friends, takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of his disappearance and - hopefully - get him back. Driven by love and guilt, armed with sharp intelligence and unnatural talents, Jane will not rest until she finds her dear friend. And soon she'll realize that she might be the only person in the world who can achieve that.

The story starts off rather slow and at first nothing suggests that The White Forest is anything more than a good historical novel. That, however, changes within the first few chapters, as we learn more about Jane and her unnatural abilities, as well as the mysterious Ariston Day and his dangerous cult. The tension -- while practically non-existent at the beginning - slowly but steadily builds up to an almost heart-stopping crescendo of panic at the end.
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Format: Hardcover
Most other reviewers have said that the prose is beautiful, and that's probably true. The language is carefully constructed through the whole book, but ultimately this is probably one of the most disappointing books I've read in a long time. It was also just plain weird.

I admit, I enjoy books that have some sort of supernatural element, but this book was just ridiculous. The first half could have been any gothic Victorian novel, although Jane did have the ability to see the souls of man-made objects by touching them. While Jane was probably my favorite character in the book, that's not saying much since at times she was incredibly cruel, especially to their servants who were already afraid of her. Madeline and Nathan both fell pretty flat. Nathan came across as spoiled, and it seemed like he was using Jane and Madeline to get what he wanted and had little emotional attachment to them. Madeline seemed so desperate for Nathan to be into her that she threw Jane under the bus. But, despite the lack of any real emotional attachment, Jane and Madeline try to figure out what happened to Nathan when he goes missing. This leads them to question Nathan's affiliation with Ariston Day and the weird boy's club that he runs. Ariston Day is interested to meet Jane because he believes she is the key to bringing the world into enlightenment, because of the all the freaky stuff Nathan told him.

So far the book is not too bad. But brace yourself, spoilers and weird plot shifts are ahead. SPOILERS STARTING NOW!!! The climax of the book ends up that Jane is the newest incarnation of this pagan goddess called the Lady of the Flowers, and has a white forest existing in her belly. Seriously. And in that white forest in her belly there are a bunch of white apes living and moving around.
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1 Comment 13 of 15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
The White Forest was not what I was expecting at all. Perhaps I should have been, but I tend not to read blurbs at all or not closely, because they sometimes contain spoilers. Anyway, I thought this was going to be a gorgeous novel of historical fiction, and it certainly starts out that way. Then it changes into fantasy horror, so be prepared for that.

The writing of The White Forest is lush, dark and gothic. I very much appreciate McOmber's style and use of language, even when the story went down paths I wasn't entirely thrilled about. Though the book does not have much action, the story moves along at a nice steady pace, jumping from the present to the past, as we unravel the mystery of what happened to Nathan Ashe.

The opening chapters focus on a friendship, that of Jane, Maddy and Nathan. The three of them formed an unlikely bond, one frowned upon by the rest of society. Two girls and a boy should not be so close, others felt, suspecting something unsavory. Jane, Maddy and Nathan could not care less about the opinions of others. Maddy and Nathan are both beautiful, meant perhaps for better things and company. Jane, so plain and boring and unworldly, feels so lucky every day to be important to them. She doesn't want anything to change between them ever.

Changes, of course, cannot be avoided as they grow older. Both Maddy and Jane struggle with an attraction to Nathan, and the jealousy of not knowing where his affections lie. Maddy especially felt jealous, hating Nathan's interest in Jane's supernatural powers. Nathan, on the other hand, has been tempted away from them by a cult led by the mysterious Ariston Day. Maddy desperately wants him out of the cult, justifiably, but to no avail. Then he disappears.
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