Writer: Sharon Gosling
Publishing House: Stripes Publishing
Date of Publication: February 9th 2017
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Once you’ve been out here for a while,
you can see them.
You can see them all.
We have been out here for a long, long while.’’
The fir tree is a symbol in a distinctive array of cultures. In Celtic Mythology, it is one of the nine sacred trees, a symbol of honesty, truth and strength. Its evergreen nature is a reminder of the continuation of life amidst the stillness of winter. In Native American culture, the fir tree is associated with protection and spirituality. And of course, we should not forget that the fir tree is the king of Christmas. In this exciting, mystifying novel by Sharon Gosling, the proud, eternal tree acquires a much more sinister role…
The young narrator and his/her parents (although I strongly believe we’re talking about a boy) abandon Stockholm for a mansion in Norrbotten, in the northernmost part of Sweden, an area of harsh climate and influenced by different ethnicities. Our narrator hardly cares for the symbolism of the new home, though. The family is warned by a young teacher that should they ever attempt to alter the environment, the forest will exact revenge. Add a rather terrifying maid in the mixture, along with strange sightings of children, accidents, disconcerting photos lying around and a constant humming resembling a lament that seems to come from the fir trees and you have one of the eeriest, most haunting thrillers I’ve ever read.
Gosling knows her subject and themes well. She uses the mystical, wintry nature of Sweden to full extent and creates superb atmosphere, where crime-noir blends with myths and supernatural tropes seamlessly. The trees become a character, they are singing, speaking in rhymes and cryptic manifestations. They acquire a voice and a focal part in the course of the story. The snow, the wood, the northern wind, the darkness and silence of the remotest of places compose the perfect background. The writer centers the story around the myth of the varulv, a forest spirit of wolf-like appearance. A protector of the northern forests, created when a human is bitter by the creature. The myth originates in the ancient traditions of offering a sacrifice to the heathen gods and is considered the basis for the werewolf tale.
The writing is excellent. The fact that the story is told in the voice of a teenager helps the flow of the action as we have short, clear-cut, always on point sentences without being dry or abrupt. This is a child who is very bright and logical but has the unfortunate lot of living with two extremely irrational, selfish, incompetent and all-around stupid parents. The father of the family takes the award for Best Idiot of the Year…The ending can only be described in a very cultured, eloquent way. Bang! It’s wonderful. It came out of nowhere and made me jump from my seat.
This is an eco-thriller, Scandinavian noir, paranormal novel of the finest kind. It reminded me of the films ‘’Edge of Winter’’ with Joel Kinnaman and ‘’The Village’’ by M. Night Shyamalan and the novel ‘’The Grip of It’’ by Jac Jemc. It is exquisitely written, building suspense and sustaining the eerie, haunting atmosphere, the constant feeling of dread until the fantastic finale.
….and please, read the appendices!
‘’Yes, say the trees.
You are not lost.
You are ours.
You are us.
And we will not forgive.’’