Book Review : The Will and the Wilds

Book Review : The Will and the WildsThe Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg
on January 21st 2020
Pages: 267
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A spellbinding story of truce and trickery from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician series.
Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.
Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.
Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.

Whenever I want to read a fun fantasy with unique magical systems and with romance, I turn to Charlie N. Holmberg. Though I was a bit disappointed with Holmberg’s most recent novel, Spellmaker, I was positively delighted by The Will and the Wilds, which gave me the same sweet and magical feeling as novels like East and Ella Enchanted. I was quickly drawn into the main character Enna’s world, which is filled with a variety of mysterious and deadly creatures known as mystings, and even read the book in one sitting. Though I really enjoyed The Will and Wilda I must admit that the world-building is very simplistic for such a dark world. And though I could relate to the protagonist, Enna, I found her to be a little bland. 


“But the day a person becomes complacent with mystings is the day her safety is forfeit.”


Enna is a young woman growing up with her father in the wildwood. Though most people avoid the wildwood and stick together in towns for fear of mystings, Enna and her father live on their own in the wood. The Will and the Wilds sets itself apart from other fairytale like tales pretty quickly, as Enna’s mother was gruesomely eaten alive while pregnant with her daughter by mystings, and her father had to cut his unborn daughter out prematurely. Traumatized, Enna’s father,  a former warrior of the King, entered the realm of the mystings, which is as deadly to humans as as the human realm is to mystings, to find a magic talisman to warn his daughter of nearby mystings. But due to his time in the mysting realm, he lost most of his mental facilities in the process. Enna is his primary caretaker, and grows up without a friend in the world.


Enna and her father, as well as their infamy in town, instantly reminds me of Belle and her father from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Many people don’t want anything to do with the eccentric pair, who brave living in the wildwood on their own, and won’t accept their business in town. So it’s no surprise that Enna passes the time by taking up her late grandmother’s research into mystings. She dreams of becoming an educated woman and having her substantial findings published. Though she focuses on her careful research, Enna always worries in the back of her mind that something is wrong with her and her hobby, as she is considered strange and even dangerous by the other villagers. Even moreso, she worries that she should want to belong with them more than she does. 


However, Enna’s hopeless dreams and quiet life quickly come to an end when mystings attack, and mark her for death. To save herself and her father, Enna impulsively decides to summon a different, more powerful mysting to fight off the ones that will hunt her and her talisman, called the Telling Stone, until she is dead and the stone is back in the mysting realm. Of course, all does not go according to plan, and Enna ends up bound to the mysting she summons, a handsome and devious mysting named Maekallus.


 “He seems almost as surprised at our predicament as I am. At least there is some tiny comfort in that.”


I love a good slow-burn romance and boy, does The Will and the Wilds deliver on that account. Despite catching feelings for a mysting, Enna is never helpless or a victim, she constantly seeks out another solution to the problem at hand, which I admired. Though I must admit to finding her single mindedness a bit boring at times, her developing relationship with Maekallus is anything but. Though lacking some of the flowery prose of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, the relationship between Enna and Maekallus was like reading the romance I so desperately wanted between eponymous Addie and the being to which she sold her soul, Luc. 


I also really enjoyed learning about all of the different kinds of mystings in the world, which are truly unique creatures that I would be very frightened to encounter. The Will and the Wilds definitely sets itself apart from similar novels by creating such a dark and brutal world. Despite the darkness, the world-building is pretty bare bones in The Will and the Wilds. For example, I don’t know the name of the world, and Enna only travels to two towns in it. I can infer that it’s somewhat medieval, as there is a warning bell for mystings, education isn’t for women isn’t a thing, and that Enna and her father make a living by growing mushrooms. Beyond that, I know that there is a mysting realm, and that mystings and humans can travel in between the realms for short periods of time at great cost to their health. 


Despite the lack of detail pertaining to world-building, I found that the novel still worked really well. LIke in most of author Holmberg’s novels though, I just really wished there was more world-building because I was frankly fascinated by what was included and would have loved to read more about it. I wanted to know more about the mystings and their realm, why they prey upon humans, how they’re born, and to read more about the war that almost happened between mystings and humans. I was also really interested in “mystiums,” the species that is born from the couplings of humans and mystings too, as any information beyond their existence was unknown. I  would definitely welcome the chance to return to this world in the future. 


“You and I, we’ll always be different. There will always be something wild in us. Others will see what they want. It’s always been that way.”


Likewise, I loved that the theme of The Will and the Wilds, which asks what exactly makes someone human and capable of love, runs throughout the entirety of the novel. To better demonstrate this theme, Enna has a bit of bond with a local boy in town, known as Tennith. Tennith appears to like Enna, seemingly against his better judgement. Though I didn’t care for his character much, which is apparently pretty commonplace with other reviewers, I did think he was a useful plot point to help highlight Enna’s struggle as an outsider and to push the message of the book. 


I found this message of The Will and the Wilds, and its main relationship to be quite touching. I think if you’re a fan of Sorcery of Thorns, The Bear and the Nightingale, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, or just enjoy fairy tales or nonconventional romances, you will like this magical novel.


Book Review : The Will and the Wilds - Blogging with Dragons

Posted July 26, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult


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