The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge is a fantastic horror/ghost story based on Norse mythology. Burge’s incredible use of setting, atmosphere and language makes you feel engulfed in Nordic winter screaming to get out. Although this is marked as a young adult novella, if you removed the small romantic element, it would read as an adult horror it is that deep and dark. The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge will be published by Hot Key Books tomorrow!
When Martha was younger, she was playing in the tree in her grandmother, Mormor’s back garden when she fell and was blinded in one eye. Ever since, she has been able to feel things about people when she touches their clothes. Unable to talk to her family about it, she returns to see her grandmother in Norway only to find that her grandmother’s funeral has been and gone. With terrifying figures and creatures roaming all around her grandmother’s house, will Martha be able to figure out the truth and slay the demons before they slay everybody?
Why I liked this book…
The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge is fantastic because it is so well researched, well-plotted and well-written. I love that it is more of a novella (around 250 pages), as this means that she does not take too long explaining Norse myths to the reader, but more assumes their intelligence by allowing them to piece together what has already been said with the current goings on. The plot itself is very reliant on the fantasy and horror elements, which work extremely well within the narrative and certainly boost it and help the characters progress, as opposed to just being there in the background or popping up out of nowhere.
Martha is a very interesting character. I wouldn’t say she’s particularly likeable at this stage, but I don’t think that many teenage girls are, but she is easy to relate to and therefore sympathise with because of her general insecurities and issues with her family. Stig is another good, complex character. Never sure whether I could trust him, he added another dynamic to the book in terms of romance, but also made Martha realise some truths about herself and steered the book in a positive direction when it could have become boring. I do feel as though Burge could have explored a little more in terms of Martha’s mother and Mormor’s actual characters, but I understand the focus being on the main two for a young adult novella.
Furthermore, I felt unsatisfied with Stig’s ending. I thought they could have done the final reveal before she battled the monster and then it all would have been different. This is difficult to write about without spoiling anything, so I will stop there. Aside from not being fully satisfied with the ending, all wrapped up neatly and with some confusion over the remaining ghost, I really enjoyed this book. I particularly liked the fight scene with the draugr and imagery of the spirits’ faces all piled up. This was particularly haunting.
Overall, I felt that this was a very good book with a bit of a rushed ending. I will give it a solid four stars, especially because I would like to know more. It would be interesting to know the story of Nina and Stig, and other Nordic families who may have connections to fantasy realms. I would recommend this to lovers of fantasy, horror and mythology, of any age. It is that well researched that it reads like historical fiction with just the fantastical horror parts pulling you away. Thank you Felice McKeown and Hot Key Books for my advance copy of The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge in exchange for an honest review.