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The Woodcutter
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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
I love faerie tales; I also love unique twists on faerie tales. While "The Woodcutter" got off to a choppy start, as the story began to unfold, I found myself caught up in it. I was intrigued by the concept of the Woodcutter and his role in the world. After all, there oft needs to be an intermediary between the fae and the mortal realms. In some ways, the Woodcutter fulfills the role of a faerie godmother, keeping a guiding eye on the threads of a person's life while not interfering overly much. However, the author develops and deepens that role, because it is not a single person the Woodcutter watches over, but the entire realm.

There are definitely some cliched moments and there are a couple of places where the story wraps up too neatly, but on the whole, I found myself intrigued with how things played out. The fact that there were multiple antagonists as well as multiple quests for the Woodcutter to solve worked nicely for me. I also liked that while he finds out the threads of the plot, he can't quickly solve the problem. Multiple types of mythlore within the story was also a bonus to me.

I could have lived with fewer chapter breaks because they made the beginning of the story more choppy than necessary, but overall it didn't overly detract from the story on the whole. It's not an intensely deep story, but it's not entirely fluff either. I enjoyed it and found myself wanting to finish it just to see how it all wrapped up. I recommend it if you enjoy faerie tales, particularly those with a twist.
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
Unpredictable tale with familiar stories and characters. A Dark twist to the original Grimm Fairy Tales. I loved it! My only complaint is there is no sequel or no other books by this author yet! I really enjoyed her writing and felt like a little girl again entering into the fantasy world of my favorite characters.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2012
This book broke my heart and put it back together at the same time. I loved it. I was hooked from the first page.

I think the last book I read that affected me this powerfully was the third volume of Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, which I had been waiting to read for some years after finishing the first two, read in a public library with the tears pouring down my face. I still remember the feeling and it's been at least 20 years now.

I found this to be absolutely wonderful. I grew up reading and loving fairy tales, especially Lang's "color" fairy tale books. The story contains elements that many of us know to be "true"...even if we stopped really believing a long time ago. The effect of cold iron, the power of a name, the magic of 3 days passing, a quest, the power of truth and honesty, and of course, true love.

Somehow Danley manages to weave all this together and make it absorbing, not childish and not a "snip and stitch" patchwork quilt of images from other stories. I'm over 40 and was absolutely enchanted (in the sense of feeling as if I were under a spell)...and at least for the duration of the book, I believed. I believed with all my heart.

The writing is...I can't describe the writing. To me, it's beautiful. It's lyrical and sparse and somehow conveys so much of emotion, seemingly effortlessly. I don't even want to analyze it more closely because I don't want to dissect it. How can I put it...when I read this, the perception of individual words and any thought of an author vanished. I wasn't reading "writing." I was reading the story.

The words twisted around my heart and I was taken deep into the story. When I read "Have you ever heard the sound of a pixie touching the ground?" I didn't *need* a description. I didn't *need* more information. That was all I needed because I *knew*, viscerally, deep inside, that the sound was terrible.

Does the plot hold up to critical analysis? Honestly, I don't know. I didn't completely understand the land's framework - but I didn't care at the time and I don't now. It didn't matter. It's a fairy tale and the suspension of disbelief, with this book, was effortless and complete for me.

Maybe you, too, can believe in the magic again.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2010
Kate Danley's The Woodcutter is a creative and unique take on the world of fairy tales. You will recognize most of the characters in this book but perhaps not quite in the settings or situations you might expect. I found the story to be captivating and the imagery to be quite powerful. An enjoyable read from a new writing talent.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2010
I really enjoyed this twist on some of the fable characters that we all know, courtesy of the Grimms, which plays out like a noir crime/detective novel. It's not cheeky or campy, like Jasper Fford, but a very well paced whodunnit that just happens to involve characters from the common cannon of folklore.

The pacing was fantastic and it kept me awake late at night wanting to read more and more ("just one more chapter!").
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2011
I won a signed copy of this book in a silent auction and after reading it I have decided without a doubt it was money well spent. The Woodcutter took me into a wonderful world of fantasy. It's filled with all of the fairy tale characters I grew up reading about but I felt like I was learning about them for the first time. I usually read at night but with this book I had to read it during the day because I was literally getting no sleep. I couldn't put it down! I won my copy so I came on Amazon to see if I could order it for my friends. I can't wait to see what Kate Danley writes next!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Kate Danley has borrowed liberally from myth, fable, and fairy tale to create her own fanciful novel, "The Woodcutter". In it, a mysterious evil is stalking familiar fairy tale types like Red Riding Hood and Snow White and threatening to undo the delicate balance between the magical fae and the mundane. As keeper of the Wood, the Woodcutter is responsible to discover who or what's behind this dastardly scheme and to stop it. On his quest, he encounters a veritable "who's who" of familiar fairy tale characters. Borrowing characters and/or themes from myths, fables, and fairy tales is an intriguing shortcut to engaging the reader. Sadly, Danley failed to craft a compelling and coherent story that's worthy of the source material.

The plot is muddled and largely nonsensical. Matters aren't helped by the fact that Danley seems far more interested in the quantity of familiar characters included than in the quality of their development. All are paper-thin and one-dimensional. While this may work for a short story (e.g. fairy tales), it's different for a novel. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which characters are included, it's just a random hodgepodge. Another hindrance is that each scene is extremely brief - a couple pages or so each. Very little effort went into meaningful development of any kind. The Woodcutter proceeds from scene to scene at a furious pace. A mansion makes arbitrary appearances. There's rampant addiction to pixie dust. There's a precarious relationship between the twelve kingdoms and the fae. But none of these things are explained in a convincing way and their interrelationships are assumed but never concretely supported. The potential danger looming on the horizon is never clearly described. It's just some vague undesirable to be avoided if possible. Events proceed to a climax that's conveniently explained because it lacks any semblance of rational grounding.

In a tale largely derived from other source material, it's probably not surprising that it lacks originality, but there are moments that cry out for some fresh developments. When a sphinx poses a riddle, why couldn't it have been something new (self-aware wisecracks don't make it any more palatable)? When a troll climbs onto a bridge, does the resolution have to be so predictable? If a dwarf dances around a fire in the wood, must he sing his name (and why was the self-awareness not present in this instance)? Part of the appeal lies in the familiarity, but using those same elements in a new way would have been much more compelling.

The writing is adequate but lacked flair. Its simplicity was reminiscent of fairy tales. While this may have been by design, it's just one more facet of the novel that fails to impress the reader. The author closed several scenes with ominous portents blatantly trying to fabricate suspense, but the reader strongly suspects that the novel is going to end with its own variant of happily ever after.

If you're looking for a lightning-quick fanciful novel mined from fairy tale stock that makes no demands on its reader, this book may be perfect for you. But if you're looking for a complex and intriguing tale, vividly rendered characters, and/or lush prose, "The Woodcutter" is likely to disappoint.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2011
This book is the perfect blend of light and dark. There is hope amidst darkness and so many familiar stories with an interesting and compelling twist. I could not put it down and this new talent rivals that of Gregory Maguire, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Originally posted at FanLit.

The Woodcutter lives in an enchanted wood. His job, which he inherited from his ancestors, is to maintain peace and the delicate balance of good and evil in the neighboring realms of humans and fairies. One day when he discovers Cinderella lying dead on the forest floor, he knows that something has gone wrong. Further investigation shows other fairytale characters are in danger, one of Odin's hellhounds has escaped, and someone is murdering pixies so they can sell pixie dust on the black market. The Woodcutter must figure out who is behind these evil events and set things right again.

Kate Danley originally self-published The Woodcutter a couple of years ago and then, after glowing reviews and some awards, it was picked up by 47North, Amazon's SFF label. Brilliance Audio produced it (read by Sarah Coomes) and sent me a copy. As I can see from reviews at Amazon and Goodreads, most readers like The Woodcutter. I'm not sure if there's something wrong with me, but The Woodcutter bored me to nearly literal tears. My opinion seems to be the conspicuous minority, so this is one of those times where I urge you to try the book for yourself. You're likely to be one of the majority who enjoys The Woodcutter. But in case you're wondering, I'll be happy to tell you why it didn't work for me.

I like the premise of a forest where all fairytale characters live together, but I didn't think it was highly original and it shortly began to feel gimmicky to me. There is a mystery plot that tries to bind everything together -- and some of it, such as the pixie dust drug trade, is unique and entertaining -- but as the Woodcutter walked through the forest and met a new fairytale character every few minutes, I felt like I was watching a parade. There goes Cinderella, and there's Sleeping Beauty. Wave hello to Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Rumpelstiltskin. Don't forget Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses. And, hey! It's Odin, Titania, Oberon, and Baba Yaga, too! Perhaps this would have been more fun if Danley had not used their names and we'd been able to figure them out for ourselves, but this felt more like... well, what I said: a parade.
It's possible that I would have liked The Woodcutter better in print than audio because I was irritated by Sarah Coomes' narration. She reads it with a breathy sing-song voice that is regularly but indiscriminately passionate, almost groaning and straining in places (hear a sample). I think many readers will approve of Coomes' interpretation, but I couldn't seem to shake the feeling that I was supposed to be taking this story seriously and oh-so-tragically when I really felt like I was eating popcorn at Disney World and that the characters would soon be tossing me candy as they passed.

Obviously the goal was to make The Woodcutter sound like a fairytale, but it tries a little too hard to be lyrical and doesn't quite manage it. The narrative was dull, distant and overly dramatic, making it hard to feel engaged. The Woodcutter is never given a name -- he's just known by his title. Everyone calls him "Woodcutter." His wife is "Wife." The other characters are known by their fairytale names. I had a hard time warming up to people who either had no name or who we know as fairytale characters. For the same reason, I had a hard time believing in the "True Love" that became the crux of the story. Frankly, I was bored with The Woodcutter and at the halfway point I ended up doing a lot of skimming.

With all that said, I can see some readers loving The Woodcutter for the exact same reasons that I didn't... if that's any help.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2013
I had just finished reading Dance of Dragons before I started this book. The disparity in writing ability is incredible. This book is terribly written. Each chapter is a page or two long. There is very little of the "show, don't tell" that is the foundation of good writing. It feels like a parade of empty cameo appearances from all kinds of mythical characters, filled with senseless melodrama. We are not let into the minds of the characters, we just see their melodramatic reactions, like this: "The Woodcutter bowed his head, feeling the weight of a million worlds placed like a yoke upon his shoulders." A million worlds? That's not a bit much? And we are not told why. This is the tone of the book. Even from the first page, I cringed at "her breath caught in her throat, for she heard the clatter of death waiting to fall." The clatter of death waiting to fall? What on earth does that mean? I'm shocked that this book won any awards. Maybe the story ends up being good, but I couldn't get past the poor writing.

If good writing makes a difference to you, you'll be glad you skipped this book.
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