Completed 6/26/2021, Reviewed 7/1/2021
This was a glorious vacation read. It’s a Novella that won the World Fantasy Award in 2020 for that category (novella, not vacation read). It’s based on the folklore of the Wild Man of the Woods and has sprites, dryads, and faeries. And the prose is simply wonderful. Being a novella, it’s only about a hundred pages, but it’s a quick paced page turner.
Tobias lives alone in the woods in a well-kept cottage. One rainy night, a stranger wanders nearby and Tobias invites him in to dry off and warm up. The stranger goes by his last name, Silver, and Tobias realizes with amusement that he’s flirting with him. Silver is a folklorist interested in the stories around the wood, particularly, that of the Wild Man. The two strike up a friendship and Silver continues to flirt. But there’s interference from the townspeople who fear the Wild Man, Silver’s mother who is a pragmatic folklorist, and Fabian, a person and perhaps former lover of Tobias who is the Lord of the Summer who demands an annual sacrifice.
The story is told in third person from Tobias’ viewpoint. He seems like a fairly normal stoic loner until the story revs up and it becomes clear he is the Wild Man of legend. But he’s anything but wild. Disheveled maybe, too quiet, and well, big and hunky. Silver draws him out a bit with his flirting. Tobias is a wonderful character that I really identified with. His lifestyle is one fantasy of mine, living quietly in the woods, although I’d be surrounded by books while Tobias can’t read or write, and waiting for the perfect man to show up on my doorstep. Tobias’ only friend before Silver shows up is Brambles, a dryad with a thorny countenance.
Silver is kind of a fop. He’s obsessed with the romanticism of folk tales, as was his now deceased father. His mother however takes a much more pragmatic approach to folk tales, causing conflict between the two. And Silver still lives with his mother except he now owns the mansion in Greenhollow, as well as the woods surrounding it, the land Tobias is on.
As with most novellas, I can’t go into too much more detail without giving away most of the story. But I can say that when Fabian shows up as Lord of the Summer, it takes everything of Tobias to fight him, along with Mrs. Silver and one of the townsfolk.
I give this book five stars out of five. It was simply a splendid read that I got caught up in and it broke my heart in the end. The book is self-contained, but when I found out there was a sequel I was overjoyed that I could spend more time with Tobias and Silver.