Thoughts on A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of the last month of 2021. Can you believe that? Are you ready for next year? That means this is my last book review and blog post in general for the year. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’ve never maintained a blog this long, so wootwoot! But I digress. You’re here for a book review. I couldn’t find anything that I really wanted to read on NetGalley, so I bought a book that came out earlier this month and decided to review it. A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw was released from Atria Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) on December 7th. Let’s get on with the review!

Interesting cover that makes more sense after you read it.

A History of Wild Places follows Travis Wren, a man with the ability to glean the memories of others from items they’ve touched, as he searches for a missing woman, Maggie St. James. The problem is that he goes missing too. Fast forward a couple of years and Theo, a member of a commune in the woods, finds Travis’s truck abandoned. Theo becomes obsessed with his find, which forces him, his wife Calla, and her sister Bee to question everything they’ve known their whole lives. It’s unsafe to leave the commune, but they discover staying might be worse. As they search for answers, their whole world crumbles around them. Is it really worth finding the truth?

To be totally honest, I went into this book expecting to be underwhelmed by the plot. Based on Ernshaw’s other books, I figured this one would be predictable as well. It was. But it was more disappointing than I reckoned it would be. I was hoping Travis’s power would have a bigger role, but it ended up being a kind of afterthought used to make the big reveal feel more impressive. And as for the big twist, it was predictable and pretty far-fetched. I know there are people who are susceptible to that kind of thing, but I didn’t believe Bee would be one of them. In my head, I tried telling myself it was magic or fantasy or whatever. But it just felt like an easy out.

But not really.

I did love the characters though. Bee was my favorite. A strong-willed, wild individual. The whole blindness thing was great until it went poof. Like, why can’t the disabled character actually be disabled? Yes, it was expected, but it was still disappointing when it actually happened. Magic, I guess! (Yes, that was a tiny spoiler. Sorry.) Calla had the most growth as a human being, so it was nice to see her progression. Theo waffled back and forth a lot, which became annoying, but he finally sucked it up and did what he needed to do. Levi was a pretty standard cult leader. He could’ve been better.

I’m not overly fond of stories that change POV a lot, but I thought it was a really good choice for this one. I also liked that it was limited to three characters. Things can get confusing with too many POVs. There were times when I kind of wanted to jump inside Levi’s head just to see how he justified his actions, but it wasn’t really necessary.

Me during the POV shifts

But what I really chose this book for was Ernshaw’s writing style. It’s lyrical and peaceful and just lovely. Despite the darker material, the writing always makes me feel warm and cozy. This book was no exception.

Ultimately, I enjoyed A History of Wild Places, but not for the usual reasons. I will definitely keep an eye out for more work by Ernshaw, because I love her writing style, but I’ll always be wary of the predictability of the stories themselves.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not my favorite book by Ernshaw, but it’s not bad. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for something with a fairy tale feeling. But not something I’d avidly encourage you to read.

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