WHAT THE WOODS KEEP by Katya de Becerra a blends science and magic in this suspense filled debut. It follows Hayden several years after her mother disappeared in a strange explosion. Hayden’s eighteenth birthday strikes, revealing not only a mysterious package her mother left behind, but a series of eerie events. When science can no longer explain why her world is devolving, she turns back to her childhood home to uncover the truth.
Though she feels like a stranger in a new town, because of her mother’s mysterious circumstances everyone remembers Hayden. Especially the intimidating Elspeth. When it becomes clear that Hayden won’t give Elspeth what she wants, the woman is prepared to force it from her.
Here, Hayden’s grasp on science crashes into her mother’s magical life. Each chapter opens with a scientific fact that somehow bleeds into the rest of the chapter, setting the tone for what is to come. Becerra eloquently unravels this scientific fact in a way that exposes how Hayden feels or sets up foreshadowing for something about to happen.
The writing in WHAT THE WOODS KEEP perfectly sets up the kind of tension one feels while watching horror movies. I found myself holding my breath or jerking back in alarm. Slowly, this falls away as Hayden figures out more about herself. I don’t mind this as it helps mirror how Hayden is feeling. It all becomes a bit less frightening and a lot more…strange.
What I really loved was the mythology Becerra pulled on. She grasped some Norse myth and, within her writing, unspooled a whole world of mythical monsters that walk among us. Magic is at war with the science Hayden grew up with, especially when Hayden discovers and organization taking blood samples from locals and monitoring a particle event in the air.
The organization knows something is happening, but they aren’t sure what. Hayden is caught between both, Elspeth and the organization, and doesn’t know which to trust.
All in all,
I loved WHAT THE WOODS KEEP and it’s creepy feeling. It’s a great read that moves quickly. I don’t think it took long for me to get through it. The relationships didn’t go that deep, but they still felt real. If you want to read a stack of books before Halloween, definitely add this one to the list.